New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (IPM) Susan Hutson and Inspector General (IG) today presented to the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee the results of two highly critical reports on the New Orleans Police Department's stop and frisk programs. The IG report, which examined 10,000 field interview cards generated over two months in 2011, concluded that because of sloppy and incomplete data-gathering on officer field interview cards, the office was unable to determine whether racial profiling was taking place during so-called "Terry stops," where officers briefly stop, detain and possibly search subjects. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1968 ruling in Terry v. Ohio, officers must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to conduct a stop and frisk.
"This is something that is very much in the public eye. It's been in the public eye since I've been here," Hutson said.
NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas told the City Council today that citywide data shows that over the last year, only about 49 percent of field interview cards completed were for black male subjects.
("I don't think that African American men comprise 49 percent of the population of the city of New Orleans," said Louisiana ACLU director Marjorie Esman, responding during the public comment portion of the meeting. Serpas later responded that in 90 percent of violent crimes in New Orleans in 2011, victims and witnesses identified a black male suspect. More than 70 percent of victims, he added, were black. Further note: Public comment on the profiling issue became very contentious. At one point Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson told speaker Randolph Scott to "hush" after he criticized her. The audience booed in response. Clarkson [for some reason] decided to escalate, calling on a police officer to "quiet down" the crowd, which in fact had the opposite effect. Finally, District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry calmly said she wanted to "move on," and the meeting moved on.)
"About 70 percent of field interviews are done because the officer saw the circumstance and took action," Serpas said, and others occurred where citizen complaints were coming in.
Still, said Deputy Police Monitor Simone Levine in a phone interview with Gambit, a whistleblower informed auditors that, during the period in question, some police districts were submitting information for encounters that didn’t even involve suspicion criminal activity, such as interviews of traffic accident victims. There was no way to distinguish between those and cards generated from police stops.
“We can’t evaluate the data. We can’t say who exactly was stopped,” Levine said.
(More after the jump)
After weeks of demands from Danatus King, president of the NAACP's New Orleans chapter, Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a meeting to address community concerns about the New Orleans Police Department — specifically racial profiling — last night at First Emmanuel Baptist Church, a mere 2.6 mile drive from Christian Unity Baptist Church, where King simultaneously held a meeting on the same topic.
Like District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, I was able to attend both meetings, but because I'm unable to bend space, I could only attend the beginning of Landrieu's meeting and the end of the NAACP's meeting. The Times-Picayune's Andrew Vanacore and Richard Rainey can therefore provide a fairer, fuller account of both. Same goes for WWL-TV and WVUE.
I do have some pictures, though.
(More after the jump)
Responding to a rumor recently circulating among some French Quarter residents that the city of New Orleans is poised to sell the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) 8th District station (and before the office's recent move to City Hall, the home of the Vieux Carre Commission) at 334 Royal St. sometime in the near future, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's spokesman Ryan Berni writes in an email that city currently has no such plans. However, he adds, that could change in the future.
"The City is open and considering other possible sites that may be better suited and more cost efficient as a police station," Berni writes.
According to Nicole Webre, legislative director for District C City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who represents the neighborhood, the city has been pondering offering the building for sale since last year.
“We haven’t heard anything recently," she says.
The historic Bank of Louisiana building, completed in 1827 according to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, is sitting on a valuable piece of property, a point city officials mentioned when the idea came up about a year ago, Webre says. The nearly 186-year-old building also needs some work.
“The building itself needs to be renovated," Webre says.
Even if the city sells the building, Webre adds, Palmer "is committed to making sure the NOPD does have a presence in the French Quarter, because obviously that’s valuable for many reasons.”
The New Orleans Police Department consent decree monitor evaluation committee held its first public meeting today, narrowing a list of candidates to five firms from the 12 that applied. The committee, made up of five representatives from New Orleans city government — which is fighting in court to void the consent decree — and five from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will meet throughout March and April to select a monitor before the court-mandated April 30 deadline.
The city chose three finalists for the contract — likely to be worth between $8 million and $10 million over four to five years — and the DOJ picked two. The cities picks are the Bromwich Group, recently founded by former federal offshore drilling regulator Michael Bromwich; the OIR Group, headed by Michael Gennaco, the chief attorney for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's civilian oversight board; and Washington law firm Shepard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. The DOJ chose California-based Elite Performance Assessment Solutions and Chicago-based Hillard Heintze, which counts former Chicago Police Department chief Terry Hillard among its principals. (Tulane criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf, who attended the meeting, will work as a consultant for Hillard Heintze if it receives the contract.)
The city of New Orleans and the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed on a schedule of meetings to choose a contractor who will monitor the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) compliance with its federal consent decree. The first one is Thursday, March 7, at 1 p.m. at the Superdome.
The point of the consent decree is obviously not the hiring of a monitoring firm. But the monitor is, in some ways, the most important piece here. That's not only because the contract — estimated to be worth as much as $10 million over five years — is one of the biggest expenses the city will take on in consent decree implementation.
It's also because the monitor will essentially determine if the consent decree is actually working. The company will measure whether the the department is making required progress on schedule and, therefore, when federal oversight can end. A federal judge will ultimately make the decisions. But those decisions will likely be based in large part on compliance reviews and citizen interviews conducted by the monitor.
The consent decree requires the parties to select a contractor within 90 days of consent decree approval, or April 11, unless an extension is approved by the judge. The city and the feds have asked U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan to extend the selection process by a few weeks, to April 30.
Meeting description, from court records:
"All public meetings will take place in the Superdome, in either the St. Charles Room or the Bienville Room."
Initial Public Meeting: Explanation of Process and Selection of Interviewees
On March 7, 2013 at 1pm until as late as necessary, the Evaluation Committee will meet to inform the public of the process it will use to select a Proposed Monitor and schedule for doing so. Also at that meeting, the Evaluation Committee will discuss the merits of each proposal and decide on a “short list” of candidates to be interviewed. If, after such discussion, the Evaluation Committee needs more information from any of the Monitor Candidates, the Evaluation Committee may consider and discuss methods of gathering that information. The Evaluation Committee also may decide on a set of questions that will be asked of all Monitor Candidates during the public interviews.
Read the full proposed schedule: Agreement_on_Process_to_Select_a_Consent_Decree_Monitor.pdf
Activist group Community United for Change (CUC) yesterday submitted a brief opposing the city of New Orleans' recent attempt to cancel the New Orleans Police Department federal consent decree. The group even goes a step further than the consent decree, asking the court to consider placing the NOPD under federal control.
"CUC urges this Court to consider placing NOPD in receivership or under the authority of the U.S. Department of Justice. The most recent actions of the City of New Orleans illustrate why they are not capable of self-governance in a constitutional manner," the brief says. "In the meantime, the Court should deny the Motion to Vacate."
CUC cites recent precedent in Oakland, Calif., where the police department has been under a consent decree since 2003. Late last year, plaintiffs claimed the department had failed to come into compliance after nearly 10 years, even though the decree was originally intended to last just five years. They petitioned a judge to place the department under federal control, rather than U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight under a mutual court agreement as in a consent decree. The department avoided receivership in name, but a December deal puts it under the authority of a federal compliance director, who has the power to fire the police chief.
The city claims the NOPD decree, coupled with another consent decree over Orleans Parish Prison, would be prohibitively expensive. The group, like the DOJ, dismisses the argument on the grounds that the city has a responsibility to ensure both constitutional policing and constitutional jail practices.
"It is shocking that the City of New Orleans takes the position that people are only entitled to a constitutional police force or a constitutional jail," the CUC memorandum says. "This latest attempt to avoid responsibility is proof positive that the NOPD and the City of New Orleans are incapable of policing themselves."
CUC previously attempted to intervene as a named plaintiff in the consent decree lawsuit. Judge Susie Morgan denied the motion in August. CUC is appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Read CUC's brief: CUC.pdf
Attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) today asked the Civil Service Commission to stop approving provisional promotions — made at management's discretion without normally required testing and training — in the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD).
Superintendent Ronal Serpas and the Landrieu Administration did not recommend $147,000 the Civil Service Department requested for sergeant exams in this year's budget. That budget item has gone unfunded for the last several years. During budget talks in November, personnel administrator Lisa Hudson told City Council that the department has not performed promotional exams for sergeants since 2007. As a result, sergeant and captain registers have expired and the NOPD has made at-will appointments, FOP attorney Donovan Livaccari said today.
"And the register for lieutenants is on life support," he said, as a result of requests from the department to eliminate it.
Livaccari said the lack of funding for tests and the elimination of promotions lists constitute and "end-around" the city's civil service rules.
Early this evening, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office sent out a statement regarding the U.S. Department of Justice filing a motion in opposition to the City of New Orleans' recent motion to void the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) consent decree:
The DOJ’s filing today mischaracterizes our interactions over the last several years, especially as it relates to the OPP consent decree. We negotiated the NOPD decree in good faith, expecting the same from the DOJ. After extensive negotiations including cost considerations on the NOPD decree, the DOJ has demanded that the taxpayers of New Orleans fork over an ambiguous, unjustified sum of money for the prison decree. It is clear that both the prison and NOPD consent decrees cannot be paid for at this time without raising taxes or laying off or furloughing employees. And it does not make sense to lay off or furlough police officers so the Sheriff can hire more prison guards and pay them higher salaries.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the city's largest police officers' association, today submitted to federal court a memorandum in support of the City of New Orleans' motion to void the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) federal consent decree. In it FOP argues that the city has already addressed many of the department's most serious problems without federal intervention. Moreover, the memorandum says, the city would be better off using the tens of millions it would have to commit to the consent decree to improve the department by increasing manpower and replacing equipment.
"The FOP also believes that the City is better off without the Consent Decree," it says.
The memorandum goes on to say that the U.S. Department of Justice is mistaken in its belief that constitutional policing is not taking place now.
"Since the commencement of the tenure of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Superintendent of Police Ronal Serpas the NOPD has become a vastly different department than the one that was studied by the DOJ," it reads. Supt. Serpas has already instituted many of the reforms called for in the Consent Decree. "No one is saying that all of the Consent Decree components have been adopted but many have and it is obvious that the this mayor and police chief are committed to reform."
(More after the jump)
The city of New Orleans has submitted to federal court a list of candidates for an evaluation committee that will help to select a company to serve as a federal monitor over implementation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) consent decree.
The contract is estimated to be worth about $10 million over the course of the consent decree, among the largest anticipated costs for the $55 million reform agreement. Unless Judge Susie Morgan modifies the deadline, the city and the DOJ must select a contractor within 90 days of the consent decree's Jan. 11 approval. That puts the date at April 11.
The city is appealing the approval, and has moved to vacate the consent decree. It had moved to delay implementation until Morgan had a chance to rule on the motion to vacate. That won't come until after March 13, the scheduled motion date. Morgan, however, denied a delay.
As stated in a footnote to today's filing, the city is submitting to Morgan's order to select the committee only because it was order to, and it "does not waive any of the arguments set forth in its Motion to Stay and Memorandum in Support Thereof by filing this Memorandum."
The city's evaluation committee:
Andrew Kopplin, First Deputy Mayor/Chief Administrative Officer, City of New Orleans
Judy Reese Morse, Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff to Mayor, City of New Orleans
Norman Foster, Chief Financial Officer, City of New Orleans
Daniel V. Cazenave, New Orleans Police Department, Superintendent’s Office
Erica N. Beck, Chief Deputy City Attorney, City of New Orleans
Read the U.S. Department of Justice's evaluation committee candidates: FedsEval.pdf
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