Friday, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana entered an order granting the joint motion of the United States and the city of New Orleans to enter the consent decree regarding the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). This order is a critical milestone in reforming the long-troubled NOPD and is an important step in dealing with the public safety crisis in New Orleans and in restoring community confidence in the New Orleans criminal justice system.
The court’s order ensures critical changes to policy and practices, oversight by a federal monitor and transparency so that the community can continue to participate in and track the reform process. The order finalizes this binding agreement that was extensively negotiated between the department and the city, and allows for that agreement’s immediate implementation. The department and the city signed the agreement in July 2012.
“The Department of Justice appreciates the court’s careful attention to this matter,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The court’s action [Friday] ensures that the people of New Orleans will have a police department that respects the Constitution, ensures public safety and earns the confidence of the community. This decree will provide the city with important tools to reduce crime, ensure effective, constitutional policing and restore public confidence in NOPD.”
As outlined in the court’s order, approval of the consent decree comes after thorough review of the consent decree to determine if it is fair, reasonable and adequate to address the long-standing constitutional deficiencies within NOPD. The review included hearing extensive testimony from the United States, the city, the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Association of New Orleans and many other New Orleans stakeholders and residents. The testimony reaffirmed both that NOPD engages in unconstitutional conduct, and that there is a public safety crisis in New Orleans that the NOPD can only address by implementing the reforms required by the decree.
The court’s approval of the consent decree comes at a time of continuing and serious public safety challenges in New Orleans.
“The deficiencies within NOPD that the Department of Justice identified during its extensive investigation continue to plague New Orleans,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “Time is of the essence. We look forward to the immediate implementation of the agreement, and stand ready to work with all stakeholders in New Orleans to continue the reform process.”
The department opened an investigation into NOPD in May 2010 after Mayor Landrieu asked for the department’s help with a complete transformation of NOPD. After a thorough investigation of NOPD’s policies and practices the department issued a letter of findings in March 2011 that outlined a pattern of unconstitutional conduct and violations of federal law that stemmed from entrenched practices within NOPD. These constitutional violations include use of excessive force; unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, and; discriminatory and biased policing based on gender, race, national origin and sexual orientation.
“In his first days in office, Mayor Landrieu called for a comprehensive federal civil rights investigation of NOPD, and said that ‘nothing short of the complete transformation is necessary and essential to ensure safety for the citizens of New Orleans.’ This consent decree provides the roadmap for the complete transformation of NOPD,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez.
The court documents can be viewed here.