Like many communities, the city of New Orleans has long enjoyed a strong relationship with its local police department. Unfortunately, the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium of New Orleans struck a blow to that relationship by canceling their annual “Blue at the Zoo” promotion, which gave visitors a 20% discount on admission for wearing blue clothing to the park. Working in conjunction with the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, the event was designed to “promote and foster positive interactive experiences” with law enforcement. Sadly, the Zoo backed out in fear that “this event could be unintentionally divisive.”
This act of cowardice is just one more tragic symptom of a toxic culture in our communities. We should be a lot more worried about media culture than police culture. Does anyone truly believe that police officers have suddenly become flagrant racists shooting black people in the streets for sport? That’s absolutely ludicrous. The only thing that has changed is that the mainstream media put a target on the back of every law enforcement officer in America. Events like “Blue at the Zoo” used to be as uncontroversial as church picnics, but now any support for the men and women of law enforcement can be construed as a political statement.
However, even if the media is the root cause of this ridiculousness, that does not take the New Orleans Audubon Zoo off the hook. We need pillars of our community to rally around law enforcement, not to back away from them. How does anyone expect relations between police officers and the community to improve if the zoo is too scared to host an event designed to “promote and foster positive interactive experiences” with police?
By all means, let’s have a discussion about how to improve policing in America. No one is arguing that the system is perfect. But don’t eliminate chances for children to learn that when they are in danger, the police are there to help. If we want to protect the most lives, strong relations with law enforcement should be a top priority. Someone needs to tell the New Orleans Zoo to stop monkeying around with public safety.