Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Orleans Inspector General and Police Monitor break up

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 PM

click to enlarge New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. - CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson.
The rift between the New Orleans Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Independent Police Monitor (IPM) — which has played out in contentious courtroom meetings and in statements to the press and the city’s Ethics Review Board (ERB) — has likely come to an end. The offices agreed to separate on Wednesday, Oct. 14 in the interest of providing “a stronger, more effective, and more responsive” OIG and IPM.

Susan Hutson has served as the IPM since 2010 to head the independent investigative body overseeing the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). The offices have frequently butted heads as Hutson has sought more independence despite pushback from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who budgets the IPM and sees the office as a branch of his own. Tensions between the offices reached a high following Quatrevaux’s September letter to the ERB calling for Hutson’s firing. In the letter, Quatrevaux alleged Hutson engaged in “ethical misconduct” and “unprofessional conduct” and “failed to relate effectively with law enforcement.”

In their agreement, announced Oct. 14, Hutson will receive an office budget of .16 percent of the city’s general fund budget while the ERB and OIG will share .59 percent of the city’s general fund budget. The OIG also rescinded his request to terminate Hutson, and they agree to “respect one another's mandate and refrain from publicly criticizing or commenting on one another except as it pertains to the respective missions and official duties of each entity regarding NOPD.”

The new arrangement will head to New Orleans voters next year. Hutson will move into a separate office by Dec. 31, 2015.

Last month, Quatrevaux said Hutson’s “most egregious” ethical violations include Hutson’s public release on July 1 of a video showing NOPD officer Terrence Saulny beating a handcuffed 16-year-old girl in his custody at the Juvenile Intake Division. Saulny was fired earlier this year after a Public Integrity Bureau investigation found he used "unauthorized force" against the girl. Hutson gave the video to | The Times-Picayune following a public records request. But U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan — who is overseeing the NOPD’s federal consent decree — held a meeting on July 14 and called Hutson’s release “inappropriate,” according to Quatrevaux. Hutson also allegedly was “combative” with Morgan, Quatrevaux said, as Hutson disagreed with Morgan’s direction for a “protocol” in releasing public information.

“I am going to follow Louisiana public records law,” Hutson said in a 15-page response letter to the ERB on Sept. 30. “During this meeting, I was unable to agree to NOT comply with public records law and my duties to shed light on NOPD issues.”

Hutson said Quatrevaux wasn’t at the meeting and his recollection of it is “hearsay.” Hutson also said she was not challenged by the city attorney’s office to release the video.

Quatrevaux also said Hutson has “deprived the public of a timely review” in several cases and called into question Hutson’s comments to the media, including her description of “independent” in her office title, which she contends is independence from his office as well as NOPD. Quatrevaux said New Orleans “deserves a police monitor who can competently and effectively carry out” its duties.

“Mr. Quatrevaux wants to silence true police oversight, for personal relationships. I have not allowed that,” Hutson said in her response last month. “Mr. Quatrevaux is aware that I intend to seek legal independence for the [IPM] and he has made this move to thwart that effort.”

District D City Councilmember Jared Brossett has introduced an ordinance to amend the city's home rule charter to separate the offices and create the changes in their agreement. That amendment will need voter approval next year. Brossett and District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell also will introduce a resolution supporting the agreement.

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