By Lolis Eric Elie
In the fall of 2006, crime in New Orleans was on the rise, so much so that it made national news. In ‘Treme,’ Lt. Terry Colson (David Morse) alludes to several of these crimes during a phone interview with a reporter. Sonny (Michiel Huisman) witnesses a shooting much like a real one that took place in a French Quarter nightclub. D.J. Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) ends the routine playing of the radio station’s concert listings with the advice that listeners go out, hear some live music and also: “Bring your gun.”
Just as crime was on the rise in the fall of 2006, suspicions were being raised about wrongful deaths and lawless behavior on the part of New Orleans police officers. The shooting that was on every one's mind took place on the Danziger Bridge. According to the federal indictment, on September 4, 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, several NOPD officers responded to a report of officers being shot at on the Danziger Bridge. The officers opened fire, causing the deaths of two men and wounding several other people.
That story was important in part because it marked one of the first times that ProPublica, a non-profit, independent investigative journalism organization teamed with The Times-Picayune to produce an important story. This collaboration has lead to indictments in other incidents of lawless police behavior. For example, several police officers were convicted of charges related to the killing of Henry Glover and the cover up that followed it. A collaboration between ProPublic, PBS 'Frontline' and NPR helped keep the wrongful death case of Raymond Robair alive after local authorities ruled it an accident. Officers in that case were recently convicted of lying to federal authorities, beating Robar and depriving him of his civil rights.
The foreman who presided over the jury in that case commented after the conviction that he believed the NOPD officers lied throughout their testimony. Those recent comments echo doubts about the integrity of the NOPD that many New Orleans residents were feeling during the time period covered in Season 2.