It’s a brand new day in New Orleans. Despite a reported rise in crime in “The Big Easy,” voters chose a new path forward by electing reformer Susan Hutson as sheriff.
While runoff elections can be a mixed bag, community members in New Orleans showed up to have their voices heard. Hutson defeated incumbent Sheriff Marlin Gusman in Saturday’s New Orleans municipal runoff election.
She became the first Black woman elected to be sheriff in the state’s history. But more than a historic first, Hutson seems to have inspired a community that has been looking for a way to oust the embattled former sheriff.
The shift in leadership comes just days after the office announced a deputy was under federal investigation stemming from a choking incident of an incarcerated person. As reported by Nola.com, Capt. Hugh Blatcher not only choked someone but then questioned other staff about what they told investigators about the incident. The incident is one of several that raise concerns about accountability and corruption under Gusman’s leadership. (Read the full story here).
Supported by a coalition of organizers, community members, and family members of those who died on Gusman’s watch, Hutson ran on a progressive platform promising reform of the jail. Under Gusman’s leadership, the jail was placed and remained under a federal consent decree.
As previously reported by NewsOne, several political formations including Emerge Louisiana, PAC for Justice, NOLA Defenders for Equal Justice, and recently the College Democrats of Louisiana. Runoff elections can be challenging, but Hutson’s supporters maintained their momentum and expanded her vote share from the November general election.
In an interview with local news outlet 4WWL, Hutson spoke about transitioning from being an independent police monitor to the Orleans Parish sheriff. She called the transition easy.
“I provide high-level leadership as the police monitor, and it’s the same thing as the sheriff,” Hutson said. “I’m the chief administrator. We’re gonna have those under me to do work, and we’re gonna do it right. So as an accountability expert, accountability systems are what I do in my sleep.”
Continuing her remarks, Hutson said that holding leadership accountable is a part of her priorities for the office. She said that a progressive framework for office looks like equity and justice and takes care of people. For Hutson, there should be more focus on supporting people as they are re-entering the community instead of just allowing the system to crush people living at the margins.
“We just have to do better than that,” Hutson said. “What are we doing for folks while they’re in there to help them when they come out. They’re our neighbors. I met many of them who have been formally incarcerated walking around this city. They want better for themselves as well. And we can help them. We can help this community.”
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