News organizations are routinely criticized for focusing on bad news rather than good, for shining a spotlight on things that don’t work as opposed to those that do.
There are reasons for this, and not all of them have to do with what sells paper or draws clicks. One argument is that it shouldn’t be newsworthy when people simply do their jobs as they should.
Yet sometimes, it is.
Take the New Orleans Police Department Sex Crimes Unit. In late 2014, just as Michael Harrison was taking over as superintendent, the city’s inspector general released a distressing report detailing an infuriating level of indifference toward victims who’d made the difficult decision to seek help.
Over the course of three years that the report covered, detectives failed to follow up on a majority of complaints, and classified 65 percent of 1,290 service calls assigned to them as “miscellaneous,” which meant the files contained so little information that investigators couldn’t analyze them. Of the remaining 35 percent, or 450, the detectives followed up only 179 times. The report also detailed specific examples of cops not submitting rape kits, or telling victims that simple rape, in which a victim it too impaired to consent, really shouldn’t be a crime.
Former New Orleans Police Superintendent Richard Pennington’s rough welcome to town 20 years…
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s follow-up report, out last week, was every bit as stunning, but this time in a good way. The report describes a pristine procedural audit in which complaints were taken seriously and pursued and overseen properly. Normally, a rise in reported rapes would be bad thing, but in this case, it suggests that the cops are no longer routinely downgrading complaints and that victims may feel more confidence in coming forward. And all this happened despite the department’s longstanding staffing challenges.
Quatrevaux called the turnaround nothing short of spectacular, one of the best he’s ever seen. “What was bad before is very good now,” he said.
He’s right. And that’s good news that worth sharing.