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NOPD is slammed over use-of-force incidents

26th June 2017   ·   0 Comments

While the NOPD has reduced the number of use-of-force incidents and is working to make more data available to the public, the department, which has been implementing a federally mandated consent decree since August 2013, still has “significant” work to do in those areas, the Office of the Independent Police Monitor said last week.

Those were among the findings listed in the 2016 annual report by Police Monitor Susan Hutson who was scheduled to share the office’s report with the New Orleans City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee last Monday.

The severely undermanned police department, which currently has about 1,150 officers, has been losing officers for many years to retirement, defections and convictions faster than it could replace them. Although the NOPD actually hired more officers than it lost in 2016, its numbers are still far below the 1,600 officers the Landrieu administration says the City needs to protect its residents and visitors.

Since New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in 2010, the department has lost more than 400 officers.

Despite its lower numbers, the NOPD must find a way to contend with a sharp rise in gun violence and an uptick in homicides.

Although use-of-force incidents are down, the amount of force used is up, the Police Monitor said last week. “The greatest increase in the types of force used was officers pointing guns at individuals,” Hutson told WWL News. “Taser use is also a concern.”

Meanwhile, Black residents are more likely to have physical force used against them, Hutson said.

“Given that Black people make up a 60 percent majority of the city’s population, one might expect that Black people would experience a similar majority of police for,” she said. But Black residents were involved in 83 percent of all uses of force. “The amount of force used against Black people appears to be disproportional,” Hutson said.

A mediation program the Police Monitor offers to work out complaints saw more than 40 cases handled, with 92 percent of officers and 78 percent of civilians agreeing to mediate qualifying complaints.

Hutson said that 100 percent of civilians who took part in the two-year-old program said the mediation helped them better understand action police took, while 83 percent of civilian participants said they would share information about crime in their neighborhood with the officer in the mediation session.

Hutson said the NOPD should be commended for making more data available to the public, but the “integrity” of that data remains in question, she said.

“For example, NOPD does not maintain its own data on how many people it arrests, instead relying on numbers from the Sheriff’s office,” Hutson said.

This article originally published in the June 26, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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