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The City of New Orleans

Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu

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Mayor Landrieu, Justice Department announce details of consent decree to oversee transformation of New Orleans Police Department

July 24, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA— Today, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and United States Attorney General Eric Holder along with Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Ronal Serpas, and City Attorney Richard Cortizas announced the details of a consent decree filed earlier today that will oversee a complete transformation of the NOPD.  The consent decree follows over two years of cooperative partnership between Mayor Landrieu and the City of New Orleans and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division on NOPD reform efforts to ensure effective and constitutional policing in New Orleans. 

“Now, after more than two years of work, the consent decree is done,” said Mayor Landrieu.  “The consent decree filed today is the most extensive and far-reaching in this nation’s history. The people of this city should rest assured that together with the Department of Justice, we will fundamentally change the culture of the NOPD once and for all.”

Landrieu continued, “We have not waited on the consent decree to begin transforming the department, but we have a long way to go.   With the consent decree filed, not only do we have the weight of the federal government behind our reforms, but we know the transformation of the NOPD can be systemic and lasting.  We now have a clear roadmap forward as we build one of the best police departments our country has seen.”

“Today’s action represents a critical step forward. It reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to the highest standards of fairness and professionalism and underscores our determination to work alongside our law enforcement partners to protect not only the safety – but the essential civil rights – of everyone in this country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Department of Justice works closely with police departments around the country to improve their operations and administration.  The Civil Rights Division specifically works to ensure constitutional policing. On May 5, 2010, Mayor Landrieu invited the Justice Department into New Orleans to partner in reforming and strengthening the New Orleans Police Department.  In mid May 2010, DOJ began a thorough and independent investigation into the patterns and practices of the NOPD. Those findings were released in March 2011.  Consent decree negotiations commenced shortly thereafter.

The Justice Department’s thorough and independent investigation involved extensive community engagement and in-depth review of NOPD practices. The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including use of excessive force; unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; biased policing; a systemic failure to provide effective policing services to persons with limited English proficiency; and a systemic failure to investigate sexual assaults and domestic violence. Other patterns and practices noted in the report include:

 

  • Failed systems for officer recruitment, promotion and evaluation;
  • Inadequate training and supervision;
  • Ineffective systems of complaint intake, investigation and adjudication;
  • A failed “Paid Detail” system;
  • Failure to engage in community oriented policing;
  • Inadequate officer assistance and support services; and
  • Lack of sufficient community oversight.

The 122-page consent decree filed in federal court earlier today addresses all 147 recommendations and actions from the March 2011 findings report in 19 sections and 492 numbered paragraphs. 

 Key components of the consent decree include:

 

  • Requirements for higher recruiting standards and more rigorous  academy and annual in-service training;
  • Policies on constitutional stops, searches, and arrests;
  • Limits on the number of hours worked in a 24-hour period (16 hours including details) and limits on the number of hours works on paid details in a 7-day week (24 hours);
  • Management of the paid detail system, now referred to as Secondary Employment, outside of the NOPD;
  • Additional training for and reporting of use of force;
  • Training for cultural awareness and community engagement;
  • Technology to improve constitutional policing and accountability measures such as in-car cameras and the development of a sophisticated ‘Early Warning System’ to monitor officer performance in relation to misconduct, use of force and bias-free policing; and 
  • Comprehensive analysis of all NOPD policies and procedures. 

The consent decree will be overseen by a federal monitor, which will be selected by City and Justice Department officials in the coming months in a public, open, and competitive process.  Additionally, the federal monitor will file quarterly, public reports with the Court. The City will file status reports with the Court every six months.  The City will also publish annual reports on certain data collected per the agreement.

NOPD has already contracted with LEXIPOL to provide a complete re-write of all NOPD policies and procedures.  This service also provides a training mechanism based on adult learning techniques to ensure personnel understand new and revised ‘best practice’ policies developed in support of consent decree mandates. The agreement also includes the creation of a Crisis Intervention Team of specially trained officers to respond to service calls involving people in mental distress and mandates additional wellness and mental health services for officers.  In addition, the NOPD must implement systems to ensure greater accountability, foster police-community partnerships, improve the quality of policing to all parts of the city, and eliminate unlawful bias from all levels of policing decisions.

”Today’s consent decree, which is unprecedented in scope and nature, is designed to ensure that comprehensive, sustainable reforms are made in the New Orleans Police Department,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez.  “We will continue our partnership with Mayor Landrieu, the police department and the community to ensure that the critical reforms are achieved.”

NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas pledged his commitment to see reform through.

“This police department is getting stronger every day,” said Serpas. “The men and women of the NOPD are committed to change. Because of our reforms over the last two years, we are closer to becoming more of the NOPD we want to be.  We’re moving in the right direction.  When combined with our legwork thus far, this consent decree will be a blueprint for building a world class police department that protects and serves. I have great confidence that if we stay focused and continue to work hard, we’ll be a model police department in the near future.”

“Today’s groundbreaking agreement represents a critical milestone in the recovery of New Orleans and a victory for our city, its police department and most of all its citizens,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten. “This consent decree will serve as a blueprint for the New Orleans Police Department to become a world class police department – and most importantly one which will be more effective in protecting its citizens against all threats and dangers.”

City Attorney Richard Cortizas said, “This consent decree will not only be lasting; it will improve the NOPD’s ability to fight violent crime while still adhering to constitutional policing.”

 The City and NOPD will work to reach full and effective compliance with the consent decree within four years of its effective date. 

Many of the requirements of the consent decree have been in place under the tenure of Mayor Landrieu and Superintendent Serpas. Mayor Landrieu began addressing crime and NOPD reform during his transition. He enlisted support and guidance from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  With the help of community leaders, a national search was conducted to find the best police chief in the country.  On his third day in office, Mayor Landrieu called upon the Department of Justice to partner with the city to reform the New Orleans Police Department, which they in turn agreed to do.  Ronal Serpas, who has a proven track record of reducing crime in urban areas through enhanced community policing, was then hired as Superintendent of Police. Mayor Landrieu and Chief Serpas have been engaged in a complete transformation of the NOPD and are committed to ensuring that New Orleans is a safer place to live, work and visit.   Serpas reorganized and downsized the NOPD’s top-heavy leadership structure, reassigned dozens of captains to new posts to change the organizational culture, added new detectives to the homicide unit and even hired the first civilian to lead the NOPD Public Integrity Bureau.  Chief Serpas began executing a detailed, 65-point plan to fight crime, build trust in the community, and reform the NOPD in August 2010.  As part of the plan, Serpas outlined a zero tolerance policy for untruthfulness and wrongdoing.   

To help regain the public’s trust in the NOPD, the Mayor immediately instructed the department to work with the Office of the Inspector General and the city’s Independent Police Monitor on records and information requests.  The Public Integrity Bureau and Independent Police Monitor have since signed a memorandum of understanding and amended City Code regarding the open sharing of information. Mayor Landrieu and Serpas also increased transparency in the organization by opening COMSTAT meetings to the public and press and made progress in providing the public with “Calls for Service” raw data for crime maps.  In an unprecedented level of cooperation, multiple public safety and criminal justice units announced a revamping of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the anti-gun violence initiative that emphasizes partnerships between local and federal law enforcement agencies.

 In May 2012, Mayor Landrieu released NOLA FOR LIFE: A Comprehensive Murder Reduction Strategy, containing new and ongoing initiatives to improve public safety in New Orleans.

Building on the work of the first two years, the NOLA FOR LIFE plan includes a strong focus on stopping the shootings and improving the NOPD.  Recognizing, however, that law enforcement alone cannot solve the murder problem, the NOLA FOR LIFE plan takes a holistic approach to get to the root of the problem, and divides the plan into five main categories:

  • Stop the Shooting;
  • Invest in Prevention;
  • Promote Jobs and Opportunity;
  • Improve the NOPD; and
  • Get Involved and Rebuild Neighborhoods.

 The consent decree filed today and continued NOPD reform is a vital part of the NOLA FOR LIFE plan.

 
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Last updated: 7/24/2012 6:34:09 PM

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