Bastiste Asks City Council To Investigate & Enact New Legislation To Address Police Cover-Up

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In remarks Tuesday to the City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee, activist Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste said that the Council should open an investigation on every New Orleans police officer who was involved in the cover-up during and after the February 2021 altercation between former City Council member Jay Banks and Batiste. “The NOPD must be held accountable. They produced a fraudulent report in my case. The Council needs to investigate all the cases of every cop that was involved. If they produced a faulty report in my case, others might be falsely accused as well,” Batiste explained. 

Joining Batiste at the meeting was Independent Police Monitor Stella Crizmet whose investigation and subsequent report of police misconduct identified a series of infractions by multiple officers. Criminal Justice Committee chair Oliver Thomas invited Batiste and Crizmet to address the committee after receiving a copy of the damning OIMP report. Also in attendance was Councilmember Eugene Green and Council President Helena Moreno, all of whom asked Crizmet a series of questions to help them better understand what had occurred. 

After reviewing all the evidence in the case, Crizmet recommended in a letter to the NOPD that a third party such as the OIMP take responsibility for investigations that included an elected official and a civilian. Council President Moreno suggested that new legislation could also include investigations that involved city employees and elected officials. Batiste agreed with Crizmet’s recommendation for third party intervention and also suggested that the Inspector General and the District Attorney be involved in all future investigations of a similar nature. 

Batiste further told the Council how it felt to be a victim of harassment and intimidation by Banks and the NOPD, especially when more than five high ranking police officers came to his modest 7th Ward home to serve a simple summons. He specifically pointed out the role of Bernard “Bunny” Newell Sr., who served as Banks’ driver but was not a trained OPSO deputy. Batiste presented the Council with a letter from former Sheriff Marlin Gusman which stated that Newell was a “judicial” driver only and had no sheriff’s experience. Batiste alleges that Newell broke the law by flashing the vehicle’s police lights, exiting the vehicle, blocking traffic and brandishing a gun. Batiste implored the Council to include Newell in any investigation on the matter. Newell drove Banks to Batiste’s home on the day of the verbal altercation. 

Batiste also voiced his concern about how the police report from that day arrived mysteriously in his mailbox. “You just can’t put nothing in a person’s mailbox. It is against the law.” He also talked about  the missing 911 tape. Crizmet said she asked the NOPD for information on what happened to Batiste’s tape and if other tapes from that day and time were also missing. Crizmet said the NOPD did not respond to her quiry. 

Batiste also pushed Councilmember Green to take an active role in the investigation.  He reminded Green that the Councilmember often spotlights the NOPD whenever progress is being made. In this instance he encouraged Green to also participate when NOPD wrongdoing is evident.  

“The citizens of New Orleans cannot trust the NOPD. Every police officer involved in this cover-up should be dealt with,” Batiste continued. “It was intimidation and bullying – there’s no way around it. The police kept changing their stories. When I spoke with Chief Ferguson, he told me he had nothing to do with it. How is New Orleans ever going to exit the Consent Decree when the police act this way?”

Batiste also told the Council that he had delivered several public records requests to City Attorney Donesia Turner that have gone unanswered. Batiste, who is chairing the campaign to recall Mayor LaToya Cantrell, said he plans on filing a civil rights violation and visiting with the appropriate federal agencies. Banks is now a member of Cantrell’s senior staff and earns $85,000 annually plus benefits. 

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