Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Independent Police Monitor, PANO file for intervention in NOPD consent decree

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 7:56 AM

New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (IPM) Susan Hutson and the officers' group the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) have both filed motions requesting involvement in final federal court hearings to finalize the proposed US Department of Justice consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department. Both motions were submitted yesterday after business hours but prior to the midnight deadline for submitting requests to intervene.

The IPM motion argues that the 492-point decree, currently under consideration in US District Court, would diminish the office's role and improperly reduce its autonomy, forcing it to coordinate and share information with a federal monitor — to be put in place to track NOPD's progress under the decree — but not requiring that the monitor reciprocate.

(Previous coverage: In a July article about a PANO-commissioned NOPD job satisfaction survey, group president Michael Glasser calls for greater employee input in the decree, which would be unveiled about three weeks later. In a January profile, Hutson tells Gambit "We think we're going to have an expanded role in this consent decree.")

From its memorandum in support:

Under the current terms of the Consent Decree, the OIPM is required to meet with the federal monitor but there is no reciprocal obligation on the part of the federal monitor or theNOPD to meet with the NOPD. Specifically, the decree states “the IPM will coordinate with the monitor and NOPD to minimize duplication of efforts, recognizing that overlapping or redundant audits may be necessary on occasion to assess the quality and reliability of various internal and external oversight mechanisms.”

(Read more after the jump)

Hutson's office claims that it attempted on a number of occasions to request involvement in consent decree negotiations but was ignored.


In particular, once the parties started discussing negotiating a settlement, the OIPM reached out to the Mayor on at least three occasions prior to the signing of this Consent Decree, including August 23, 2011, June 6, 2012, and June 11, 2012. Additionally, the OIPM was scheduled to meet with the Mayor again on July 17, 2012 to specifically discuss the OIPM’s role in the Consent Decree, but the Mayor asked to reschedule the meeting. However, the meeting was not rescheduled, and instead on July 24, 2012; the City Attorney advised the OIPM that an agreement had been reached.

On each occasions the OIPM requested to be present during negotiations or to receive a copy of any drafts of the Consent Decree. The OIPM reiterated on each occasion that it needed to see its role set out in the Consent Decree prior to the City reaching an agreement. On each occasion, the OIPM was assured by the Mayor, that although the OIPM would not be a party to the negotiations, the OIPM would receive drafts for its review, especially as it related to its role.

Therefore, the OIPM met with the City Attorney or his staff on at least seven occasions in 2011 and 2012, including October 14, 2011, December 2, 2011, December 13, 2011, December 19, 2011, March 6, 2012 and during an impromptu meeting on May 1, 2012, to follow up about the OIPM’s role. However, the Consent Decree, which the OIPM was never allowed to review, takes into account very little of the input provided by the OIPM, yet purports to bind the OIPM to its terms and conditions.

PANO also submitted a 6-page motion before last night's deadline, following a motion from the Fraternal Order of Police earlier this week. From PANO's motion:

The officers of the NOPD have a right to have their views and interest noted on the proposed Consent Decree presented to this Court and have them fully considered in conjunction with this Courts decision whether or not to approve the proposed Consent
Decree.

Later in the document, PANO requests that its president Capt. Michael Glasser, be appointed as a representative for NOPD employees in consent decree litigation.

PANO's memorandum in support, posted online with federal court documents later this morning, claims that the federal government (plaintiff) had long suggested that the association would be a party in negotiations leading up to the July 24 announcement of the proposed decree, as far back as May 2010, when the Department of Justice began its investigation into the department, following newly inaugurated-Mayor Mitch Landrieu's call for federal oversight.

From the memorandum:

Interveners in this matter were summoned to a meeting with representatives of both the plaintiff and defendant in this matter in May of 2010. Issues addressed at this meeting included plaintiff’s desire to conduct voluntary interviews of law enforcement officers, including PANO members and Glasser. Plaintiffs often used the PANO office as a location in which to conduct their interviews, and these interviews formed a framework from which this decree would eventually evolve.

Based on the tone and tenor of this meeting, as well as information and belief, strongly suggested interveners would be included, as a practical matter, in the formulation and implementation of those rules, policies and procedures which would have such a direct impact on the officers represented by PANO. This, however, was not to be the case. Interveners suggest that the defendant “City” in this matter is unlikely to adequately represent intervener’s interest in this case.

Those interviews formed much of the basis for the DOJ's March 2011 report on the department (which in turn formed much of the basis for the proposed consent decree), PANO argues, specifically its findings about the department's extensive use of field interview cards. (Read former Times-Picayune crime reporter Brendan McCarthy's July coverage of NOPD field interview card use.) A PANO member, Officer Darren Hartman, brought concerns about FIC use to department superiors in April 2012, the memo notes:

This officer was summarily reprimanded, both verbally and in writing.The NOPD also initiated a series of “collateral” investigations of this officer. PANO elected to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the “City” in order to protect the rights and interest of its member.

(As McCarthy reported in his story, Superintendent Ronal Serpas has maintained that [I'm quoting a paraphrase from the T-P story] "Hartman was strictly disciplined for refusing to write tickets on clear and obvious violations regarding traffic violations, not for refusing to fill out FICs.")

In late July, Hartman filed a federal lawsuit against the city.

A hearing on the proposed agreement has been scheduled for August 29 in US District Court. Other parties, such as the city or the DOJ, have until August 14 to file motions opposing any of the intervening parties.

Update: Judge Susie Morgan on Wednesday set a hearing for all motions to intervene. The hearing is scheduled for Monday August 20 in federal court. Each intervening party — the Fraternal Order of Police, Community United for Change, PANO and the IPM — will have 15 minutes for arguments. The city and the Department of Justice will each be given 20 minutes to respond.

IPM motion: IPMMotion.pdf

IPM memo in support: IPMMemo.pdf

PANO motion: PANOMotion.pdf

PANO memo in support: PANO_Memo.pdf

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