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New Orleans seeks to toss out NOPD consent decree

5th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

After years of negotiating and haggling over a Department of Justice-mandated consent-decree proposal that will outline reforms implemented in the New Orleans Police Department, the Landrieu administration has formally requested that the NOPD consent decree be thrown out, FOX 8 News reported Thursday.

In new court documents, the City of New Orleans is seeing to vacate the consent decree, saying it no longer believes the U.S. Department of Justice can be a partner to reform the NOPD. The Landrieu administration contends that it was misled by the DOJ about a separate consent decree it was negotiating with Orleans Parish Prison, and how much that would cost the city.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu first expressed concerns on January 11, the day U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan approved the agreement.

“I think the Justice Department has not been as forthright with us as they could have been, and this entire Sheriff’s Office consent decree has thrown the whole thing up in the air and in question,” said Landrieu. “What is not in question is my commitment to reform the New Orleans Police Department.”

Even before Judge Morgan issued her ruling on Jan. 11, city officials and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office had reportedly been negotiating with the DOJ behind the scenes to block the inclusion of four groups that sought to intervene in the consent decree —the Fraternal Order of Police, Independent Police Monitor’s Office, Police Association of New Orleans and Community United for Change. Both the city and the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that these groups’ involvement would make the process too cumbersome.

Among other issues, CUC sought to include a civilian oversight panel in efforts to reform the NOPD, promoted the use of audio and visual equipment to monitor all police interaction with civilians and also wanted to extend the time frame for implementing changes to the NOPD beyond the prescribed four years.

Now, two other huge arguments are part of the city’s motion to vacate.

According to FOX 8 News, he filing cites the online blogging scandal involving former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, who helped negotiate the consent decree.

For the first time, the city reveals that Perricone applied to be police chief of New Orleans, even posting online under an assumed name, “Mitch, get Letten or one of his boys or girls to be the next chief.”

When Ronal Serpas got the job instead, the city says Perricone took aim, trying to sway public opinion against Serpas, the NOPD and the paid detail system.

“All of this could have been avoided—the cost of the consent decree, an appeal—if the city would have done its homework in advance,” Raymond Burkart, III, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, told FOX 8 News.

Burkart says the city’s final argument has been part of the discussion all along.

The city now says it’s concerned the paid detail reforms won’t comply with federal labor law. Questions remain about who pays the taxes, and whether officers would get paid at an overtime rate if the city handles the details.

“The city was warned about this and now they’re crying foul,” Burkart said last week. “Why sign anything without getting the costs and figures beforehand?”

The bottom line: The city wants out of the historic agreement to reform the NOPD. The Department of Justice has until February 15 to file its response.

“Isn’t it funny that the same entities that argued last year against CUC and the other groups seeking to intervene in the case getting involved because it would supposedly make the process of reforming the NOPD more cumbersome are now themselves doing everything in their power to make the process more cumbersome?” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate told The Louisiana Weekly. “The mayor is obviously upset because things are clearly not going his way. Everything has be go exactly as he wants it to go or there’s a problem. That’s a control issue. While the mayor may be concerned about balancing the city’s budget and making sure that the city doesn’t look like the bad guy in this case — even though it is — we need to make sure that the Department of Justice does its job and protects all of the residents of this community, not just a small, privileged class of people.”

“It’s obvious that locally and federally people are playing politics with the safety, civil liberties and constitutional rights of Black people in New Orleans,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, president and founder of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “We need to make it clear that until there is justice in this city there will be no peace. Everyone who cares about the constitutional rights of residents who are routinely abused and bullied by the NOPD needs to wake up and let elected officials know that enough is enough.

“Don’t just get mad, get organized,” Brown added. “Let your anger and dissatisfaction with conditions in New Orleans fuel your vigilance and political involvement.”

*Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article was originally published in the February 4, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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