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NOPD Chief 'disheartened' after Audubon Zoo cancels 'Blue at the Zoo' event

"This has turned into an ugly situation, but it is not a result of them not supporting us. They had to make a decision. We understand it."

NEW ORLEANS — As part of National Police Week, New Orleans police officers planned to interact with the community at Audubon Zoo, but Audubon Nature Institute announced Tuesday they decided to cancel the event.

The purpose of "Blue at the Zoo" was "to promote and foster positive interactive experiences with our New Orleans Police Department," according to a joint press release by Audubon and the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. Anyone wearing blue at Audubon Zoo would get discounts.

Tuesday, Audubon announced it was cancelling the event. The statement says: "Audubon Nature Institute heard feedback regarding the event from members of our community and from persons outside of our community, who feel this event could be unintentionally divisive rather than inclusive. Though that was never the intent, Audubon Nature Institute made the decision to cancel the event."

"I was disheartened as a result of that decision," NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Wednesday.

Supt. Ferguson said Audubon has always been a supporter of NOPD.

"This has turned into an ugly situation, but it is not a result of them not supporting us. They had to make a decision. We understand it," he said.

"We're terribly disappointed," said Melanie Talia, President and CEO of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation whose mission is to promote NOPD. "We know our community appreciates NOPD and when it comes to Mardi Gras, we like to say there would be no purple green and gold without the blue."

In a promotional hiring tweet, NOPD tweeted Wednesday: "During a time when policing in America is frowned upon, our officers can smile knowing that the #NOPD is the model for the implementation of the constitutional policing reforms the public is demanding."

This comes as protestors across the country have been pushing to defund the police amid police brutality.

"The men and women of the NOPD work so hard and sacrifice so much and the NOPD really is leading the nation in constitutional reforms the public is demanding," Talia said.

Audubon went on to say in the statement: "The Audubon Nature Institute understands and appreciates that the issue of ethical policing is at the forefront of our nation and our local community and that NOPD is a nationally recognized leader in law enforcement reform."

"What we've learned is that the individuals who are saying negative things who triggered this with Audubon are people who are not even from New Orleans so we have to be mindful of that," Supt. Ferguson said.

We reached out to Audubon for clarification on who expressed concerns that lead to the cancellation, but no one was made available.

The full statement on the cancellation is below:

"The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation and Audubon Nature Institute partnered to host "Blue at the Zoo" in an effort to promote and foster positive interactive experiences with our New Orleans Police Department. Audubon facilities have long been welcoming and safe spaces for the children, families and citizens of our community.

Audubon Nature Institute heard feedback regarding the event from members of our community and from persons outside of our community, who feel this event could be unintentionally divisive rather than inclusive. Though that was never the intent, Audubon Nature Institute made the decision to cancel the event. Audubon will continue to work with the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation to find ways to support the New Orleans Police Department.

The Audubon Nature Institute understands and appreciates that the issue of ethical policing is at the forefront of our nation and our local community and that NOPD is a nationally recognized leader in law enforcement reform.

Audubon stands firm in its support for holding law enforcement accountable for any and all unethical and unlawful behavior. Audubon also supports efforts that promote healing between law enforcement and the community. As such, working with the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, Audubon will be considering alternative ways to promote meaningful and impactful community engagement with the New Orleans Police Department."

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