February 24, 2009
Jindal praises race-profiling lawman
In his response to Barack Obama tonight, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke glowingly of the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee.
It was a curious, even provocative choice: Lee, a colorful 300-lb. Chinese-American lawman was repeatedly accused of racially profiling blacks in the predominantly white parish he dominated prior to his death in Oct. 2007.
During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: 'Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!' I asked him: 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.
In the wake of Katrina, Lee grabbed national headlines by suggesting his deputies could randomly stop blacks to combat a rise in drug crimes caused by the displacement of low-income New Orleans residents.
He later abandoned the idea -- but never apologized.
In an earlier incident, Lee sparked a firestorm by ordering his force to arbitrarily stop “young blacks in rinky-dink cars” driving in white neighborhoods, according to The Associated Press. He backed off that plan, calling it a mistake after the NAACP called on him to resign.
Shortly before his death, Lee stoked controversy again, telling a TV reporter: "We know the crime is in the black community. Why should I waste time in the white community?"
By Glenn Thrush 11:16 PM