You can pick any year and find a story of egregious behavior by JPSO deputies. Last year, an officer shot a boy in Terrytown while the 14-year-old was lying on his stomach on the ground. The incident went unreported for months. The year prior, white deputies attacked and wrongfully arrested a Black man during a Mardi Gras parade in Metairie. Only recently did the man receive a settlement.
Body cameras could do much to provide accountability and a neutral record of incidents like these. And they may soon be coming to JPSO, according to an announcement Sheriff Joe Lopinto made last Thursday during a Facebook Live with the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
Lopinto said he signed an $8.7 million contract with Axon in June. Body cameras are expected to arrive in two weeks, with officers being trained in November. The cameras could be in use by Christmas.
That’s still a six-month lag between inking the deal and implementing the body cameras. The sheriff, who sat in his truck as he was interviewed, made excuse after excuse as to why the department has failed to have body cameras all these years.
He cited the $3 million deficit he inherited, which he claims has turned into a more than $1 million surplus. Lopinto also revealed that JPSO is operating off of a $126 million budget—more than enough to use towards body cameras. In fact, Lopinto seemed to have no issue bragging about the fact that his office will soon be receiving license plate readers, which would have been subsidized were it not for a bill stalling out in the Louisiana House in 2016.
And, though he claimed he ran for sheriff on a platform in favor of using them, Lopinto said he still had privacy concerns about the cameras. The sheriff offered a detailed hypothetical incident in which body camera footage shouldn’t be released. He also issued concerns about footage potentially swaying public and internal opinion.
In Lopinto’s words, he wants to allow his office to pick and choose what footage is made available. “There’s a time and a place where it makes sense for me to show video,” Lopinto said. “There’s a time and a place where it doesn’t make sense for me to show video.”
Despite appearing for more than half an hour on Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee’s Jeff Talks program, Lopinto made no mention of the case that soon made national news. No one pressed Lopinto for answers on Arnold’s beating at the hands of one of his deputies, which occurred Sept. 20. Lopinto’s silence truly says all you need to know about how seriously JPSO takes complaints against its worst offenders.
Truly one of the best ways to combat a corrupt system with folks like this in power is to elect those willing to do better. Democrats need to focus on recruits for civic and state lawmakers.
Congresswoman Cori Bush is proof that electing Democrats can lead to more meaningful systemic reform. Her People’s Response Act provides an alternative to discriminatory policing practices that have terrorized citizens across the country. Call on lawmakers to support the People’s Response Act now.