|Ex-con drug dealer and good samaritan Mike Ainsworth.|
The NOPD and the entire power structure should really be called out for their demonization of "criminals" as a category, which includes many people capable of the kind of selfless heroism Mike Ainsworth lost his life displaying. The real problem to be addressed is not that the city is demonizing the dead by calling them criminals, it's that the practice implicitly vilifies anyone with an arrest record in the first place as bad people!
The NOPD's policy is akin to saying "if you like the Saints, you might be more likely to be murdered." While true, it is a completely inconsequential correlation. The characteristics that are consequential to one's likelihood of becoming a murder statistic are, not coincidentally, also the same factors that lead to someone having arrest records in the first place.
So while it's true that you have a higher chance of becoming a murder victim if you have a criminal record, and that this fact should not be used to speak ill of the dead by the NOPD, it's also true that a person has a higher chance of being murdered if they are from the 'hood, are poor, are not white, are young, and are a man; these are the very same factors that also lead to a higher chance of having a criminal record.
In America, 40% of youth under 23 have been arrested. In New Orleans it's surely higher than that. With New Orleans racking up 74,455 arrests in 2010 alone -- in a city with a population of only 300,000 -- many people here have arrest records, with most, like Mike Ainsworth, having non-violent charges or arrests resulting from the apartheid-esque "War on Drugs" (~70% of all arrests at OPP are for such offenses).
So maybe instead of NOPD making murder victim's lives appear less valuable through demonization-by-criminalization the city should acknowledge that the very same people who often become victims on the streets are also the people being locked up by the police and prison system (and this means those institutions are failures both at preventing violence, and also as effective institutions at ending it). The city must then stop treating them like criminals, because they are victims, too, and begin to heal and repair the neglected communities that have created the conditions for becoming both a "criminal" as well as a potential murder victim in the first place.
What if instead of making money off of "criminals" as the raw material justifying our criminal justice system, we valued the lives of criminalized human beings while they are still alive, instead of only after they show up as the murder statistics that make our tourist industry nervous?
How about we ALWAYS refuse the demonization of those with criminal records by the very same cops who locked them up, and not only when they are murdered? And not only when they are murdered while being a good samaritan.
If nothing else, hopefully this lesson is clear from Mike Ainsworth's life and will not be overlooked: when the system is guilty, criminals may be the only ones with any integrity left. May his heroic act help bring an end to the criminalization of large parts of our city, a situation which only benefits the few rich and powerful who don't care if people keep dying because they profit immensely within the violent status quo.