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Former mayor says consent decrees needed

8th July 2013   ·   0 Comments

Marc H. Morial, CEO of the National Urban League and a former New Orleans mayor, placed the current mayor, Mitch Landrieu, squarely on the hot seat when he told WDSU News anchor Norman Robinson in a WDSU “Hot Seat” segment that his hometown desperately needs both the Orleans Parish Prison and New Orleans Police Department consent decrees in order to become a safe and democratic world-class city. A snippet of the segment was aired on WDSU Thursday night.

The segment was scheduled to air in its entirety on Sunday night, July 7.

During his tenure as mayor, Morial cooperated with the DOJ’s efforts to implement a similar NOPD consent decree after several high-profile murders of civilians by NOPD officers Len Davis and Antoinette Frank. Those reforms were being implemented by Morial and former NOPD Supt. Richard Pennington. Morial has said in the past, but were left incomplete after the electing of Morial’s successor, C. Ray Nagin.

Although Mayor Landrieu signed the NOPD consent decree, which is designed to completely overhaul the police department, a year ago, very little progress has been made getting the reforms started. Among other things, Mayor Landrieu has argued that the process was tainted by two former prosecutors who resigned after an online posting scandal and that the NOPD no longer needs a consent decree because it has already begun the process of reforming itself. The Landrieu administration also has claimed that the City of New Orleans cannot afford to pay for two federal consent decrees and has requested three delays in the selection of an NOPD federal consent-decree monitor. After the three delays were granted, the 10-member panel charged with the task of selecting an NOPD consent-decree monitor, which consists of City of New Orleans and Department of Justice officials, failed to reach an agreement on a monitor.

Because the panel was unable to select a monitor, that task fell to U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who has not yet indicated when she will make a decision.

The two finalists for the post are Chicago-based Hilliard Mintze and Washington, DC-based Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton.

The Landrieu administration has also been embroiled in a very bitter feud with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman who runs Orleans Parish Prison. The mayor has said the city cannot afford to cost to renovate the troubled prison facility and accused Sheriff Gusman of mismanaging its funds and running an unsafe facility. Although relentlessly fighting the DOJ’s efforts to make changes at the NOPD, the mayor has sought to persuade the Feds to take receivership of Orleans Parish Prison.

Gusman has countered by pointing out that the facility has been severely underfunded for years by City Hall and needs to be properly funded to avoid cutting corners that lead to health and safety issues.

The NOPD consent decree is the result of a DOJ probe that found the NOPD was in dire need of a major overhaul to address the excessive use of police force, corruption, ineptitude and unconstitutional policing. The mayor signed the NOPD consent decree last summer and U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan signed the NOPD consent decree in January 2013.

In other NOPD-related news, a new policy for all New Orleans Police Department officers has already raised the ire of some of the groups representing police and some inhospitable comments from some in the tattoo business, WDSU News reported last week.

According to a new directive fully supported by NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, beginning Aug. 1, all visible tattoos have to be covered on NOPD officers.

At the Faubourg Tremé’s AART Accent Tattoo Studio, Robert Bruce said last week that he has all the business he can handle.

Bruce told WDSU News that many of his clients are NOPD officers. When asked whether he thought the tattoos affect their ability to do their jobs, he said “No, not at all.”

Bruce made it clear last week that he is not a fan of the new NOPD tattoo directive.

“I think it’s a joke to make them cover up their tattoos,” he said.

Regardless of the opinions of the city’s tattoo parlors, the new rule means any officer who has a tattoo on their arm or on their hands, fingers or neck will have to cover it.

Officers will have the choice to either wear long sleeves or cover the body art using flesh color bandages or band aids.

This article originally published in the July 8, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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