She’s going to set a new standard!
According to CNN, Susan Hutson has made history as the first female sheriff of Orleans Parish and the first Black woman to hold the position in the state of Louisiana. Hutson was the independent police monitor for the New Orleans Police Force for ten years, a position created by Orleans Parish voters in 2008 to supervise changes to the department.
During the recent election season, Hutson decided to run for sheriff and put her hat in the ring.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who has been sheriff since 2004, was Hutson’s opponent.
Gusman had a 13-point advantage in the polls back in November, receiving 48 percent of the vote versus Hutson’s 35 percent.
Because no candidate received at least 51% of the vote, the contest was decided in a runoff this past weekend, with Hutson defeating the four-term incumbent with 53% of the vote.
Hutson focused her campaign on subjects she considered were most important to the community, including some contentious criminal justice reform concerns. Opposing the parish’s jail expansion, offering gender-confirming housing, and terminating the jail’s health-care provider contract were among the items on the list.
“History has been made. I am so proud and humbled to call myself your next Sheriff. A huge thank you to all of our campaign staff, our community organizers, the religious community, nonprofits, neighbors, and friends…Let’s get to work,” said Hutson.
In reaction to frequent violence and disorder at the jail, including an iconic video taken by one detained individual showing people using drugs and manhandling a gun, Gusman was pressed into signing a wide-ranging federal reform agreement known as a consent decree in 2013.
Gusman has struggled to keep his end of the bargain since then. He narrowly avoided total receivership, but between 2016 and 2020, he was barred from administering his own jail.
Separately, the sheriff was embroiled in a huge corruption controversy after his senior deputy was found guilty in an off-duty detail case.
The primary precinct results revealed significant voter divisions. Gusman fared better in predominantly Black areas and in areas with more conservative White voters, such as Lakeview. Hutson did best in racially diverse and liberal communities including the Faubourg Marigny, Bywater, and Mid-City.
Gusman attempted to claim the reform mantle for himself, claiming that during his tenure, the convict population fell by 85 percent. However, he also launched advertisements decrying the city’s rising violent crime rate and railing against out-of-state special interests swaying the election, a move that appeared to play to some voters’ resentment of newcomers to the city.
Advocates for criminal justice reform organized a press conference to criticize Gusman for opposing rather than supporting attempts to reduce the number of people incarcerated. Hutson argued that she was not radical in one of her closing points.
“You’ve seen me say anything about defunding or eliminating the jails? That’s my opponent saying that” Hutson said in a debate on WBOK-AM. “If you are a person who is anti-law enforcement, that’s not me. As a police auditor for 17 years, we help our police departments serve our communities better.”
Sheriff Hutson, congratulations!