NOPD New Orleans police

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Amid the important national debate over how to reform policing so that it protects and serves all citizens, this should be a starting point: Most people who go into law enforcement put their lives at risk every day to keep people safe. The notion of recognizing their service while building ties between them and their communities should be anything but controversial.

Sadly, though, a planned event at the Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to “promote and foster positive interactive experiences” between visitors and the New Orleans Police Department has been deemed too “unintentionally divisive” to proceed.

Audubon officials and the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation had scheduled a weeklong “Blue at the Zoo” promotion that would have offered concession and gift shop discounts to anyone wearing the signature color of law enforcement. But Audubon scrapped the plan after getting “feedback … from members of our community and from persons outside of our community.”

Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said he was disappointed at losing “an excellent opportunity to connect with our community on a personal level,” and we are too.

The NOPD is far from perfect, but it has made major strides under a federal civil rights consent decree and has already adopted many of the changes sought by protesters following last summer’s murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop.

Like the organizers of the event, we believe the path to still more progress runs through connection, not needless confrontation. Scapegoating all cops doesn’t solve problems; it just exacerbates a divide that has too often led to tragedy.