A 10-member committee — made up of five representatives from City Hall and five from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) — began meeting in the Superdome in early March to select a firm that will monitor the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) under the recently enacted federal consent decree. Hiring the monitor may not seem as important as the nuts and bolts of the decree itself, but in many ways, the monitor is the most important piece of the puzzle.
The monitor's contract is worth at least $7 million over four years — one of the city's biggest expenses for implementing the consent decree — and the winning firm will help determine whether the consent decree is working as promised.
Equally important, the monitor will determine whether NOPD is making required progress on schedule, which is a key component in deciding when federal oversight can end. A federal judge ultimately will make those decisions, but the judge likely will give great weight to compliance reviews and interviews the monitor conducts with citizens.
Last week, the selection committee held its penultimate meeting. It's down to two contractors (from 12 in March); committee members were unable to agree on one. The city favors the Chicago-based consulting firm Hillard Heintze. The DOJ's pick is Los Angeles-based international law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.
At last week's meeting, it did not appear that either side was likely to budge. If they can't decide by the final meeting on April 30, U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan will choose one of the firms. Here's a look at each.
$7,007,542 capped price for four years.
Key team members:
• Monitor Terry Hillard was the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department from 1998 to 2003 and served as interim superintendent in 2011. He worked for the department for more than 30 years.
• Deputy monitor Kathleen O'Toole was the Boston Police Department's first female commissioner, a post she held from 2004 to 2006. Prior to that she was the secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. In 2006 she was appointed to head the governance and oversight body for the Irish national police force.
• Deputy Monitor Robert Davis worked for the San Jose Police Department for 30 years, rising to chief of police in 2004. He left the department in 2010.
• The lead team members are former police chiefs who have run big-city departments. Hillard Heintze did its homework on New Orleans, already having identified local subcontracting firms and advisors before it submitted its bid. But perhaps the most important factor is the price. The firm's cap is just above $7 million for four years, compared to an $8.9 million cap for competing firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. What's more, the city will get more work for less money. Hillard Heintze estimates its staff will work 34,958 hours over four years, nearly 10,000 more work hours than Sheppard Mullin's 25,040 hours estimate.
Hillard Heintze has no experience monitoring a federal police consent decree. The firm's initial bid, submitted last fall, included two team members who were involved in the Cincinnati Police Department's 2002-2007 consent decree: former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio attorney Scott Greenwood. Greenwood and Streicher are no longer with the firm. The DOJ also was concerned that the Hillard Heintze team lacked civil rights law experience.
A letter written by local civil rights attorney Bill Quigley on behalf of the citizens' group Community United for Change (CUC) accuses Hillard Heintze of employing locals with close ties to a city administration that hopes to get out of the consent decree altogether. Quigley's letter was submitted last week and read aloud at the committee meeting. Moreover, members of the DOJ's selection team said they were troubled by certain "controversial" Hillard Heintze team members.
The "controversial" people in question are First Emanuel Baptist Church pastor The Rev. Charles J. Southall III — special counsel to proposed monitor Terry Hillard — and Tulane University criminologist Peter Scharf — a "strategic advisor" for the firm.
The CUC letter points out that Southall gave the invocation during Landrieu's 2010 inauguration. One of his businesses, the Gaskin Southall Gordon & Gordon Mortuary, received a $1,000 donation from Landrieu's campaign fund last year to "help bury a victim of a police shooting," the letter says. Finally, it notes that Southall gave $4,600 to the campaign of Landrieu's sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. "Rev. Southall may well be a wonderful minister, but he is hardly independent of the mayor whose NOPD he is supposed to be able to independently monitor," reads the CUC letter.
Scharf's name comes up in Quigley's letter and Hillard Heintze's correspondence with the city. According to the firm's disclosures, Scharf met with Deputy Mayor Judy Reese Morse twice following Landrieu's unsuccessful 2006 mayoral bid against Ray Nagin to help revise Landrieu's criminal justice strategy. Morse — a member of the monitor selection committee — was working as then-Lt. Gov. Landrieu's chief of staff. She has the same position under Landrieu at City Hall.
In 2010, after Landrieu's election but prior to his inauguration, Scharf was on his transition team's criminal justice task force. Scharf has since served on the re-entry task force for Landrieu's murder reduction initiative.
"CUC views him as not committed enough to a tough, independent monitor capable of challenging the deep problems at the NOPD," the letter says. "Professor Scharf may well be a respected academic, but CUC concludes that he, like Rev. Southall, is not independent enough of the mayor..."
The letter also refers to "The Perils of Police Reform," an October 2012 article Scharf authored for the investigative news website The Crime Report (www.thecrimereport.org), expressing worry that the decree could lead to a reduction in experienced officers, resulting from low morale or lack of sufficient funding.
Though Southall may have contributed money to Mary Landrieu, the senator is not a part of Mitch Landrieu's administration. State campaign finance records show that Southall has never donated a dime to the mayor's campaigns.
The $1,000 from Landrieu's campaign to Southall's mortuary was to help cover funeral expenses for Wendell Allen, the 20-year-old man shot and killed by a New Orleans Police officer last year during a drug raid on a Gentilly home. (Allen, who was not the target of the raid, was unarmed at the time he was killed by police.)
Meanwhile, Scharf's Crime Report article could very well be presented as evidence for the opposing view. Scharf takes pains to acknowledge the NOPD's many longstanding problems, including corruption and ineffectiveness. The article "criticizes" the consent decree by asking if reform of the NOPD is possible without, among other things, "buy in" from rank-and-file officers. And Landrieu himself might disagree with the characterization of his and Scharf's relationship. Just last year, Scharf, working with the Police Association of New Orleans, released a police job satisfaction survey that was highly critical of the NOPD under Serpas and Landrieu.
What the city says:
Assistant City Attorney Erica Beck: "The city believes strongly that the monitoring team should be headed by a police chief" rather than "lawyers arguing about the legal technicalities of the document."
Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin: "There's a fifth year for Hillard Heintze for the same price as four years of Sheppard Mullin."
What the DOJ says:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Parker: "They have no monitoring experience. And this is the largest, most complex police consent decree in the Justice Department's history."
DOJ Civil Rights Division trial attorney Emily Gunston: "We think it's really important that the contractor will be, and will be seen as, independent from both parties. ... We heard concerns [about Hillard Heintze's local advisors] from a broad swath of stakeholders."
What the public says:
During the public comment portion of last week's meeting, speakers were mostly opposed to the city's choice for monitor, with many focusing on its local representation.
"There's a lot to be desired in both," said Danatus King, president of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP. "But the community had no confidence in the local representatives identified by Hillard Heintze."
Civil rights attorney Mary Howell questioned Hillard's record on police civil rights, asking about hundreds of cases of torture under Chicago police detective Jon Burge from the 1970s to the 1990s. Burge was fired in 1993. Meanwhile, investigations into convicted criminals whose confessions might have been forced continued. In 1998, Thomas Needham, then Hillard's general counsel, discovered that internal police investigators sustained a number of torture allegations. Needham reversed the ruling. "Where did he stand during the Chicago police torture cases?" Howell said.
According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Hillard testified in 1999 that he knew nothing about the evidence contained in the reports.
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
$7,880,786.25 four-year estimate; $8.9 million four-year cap
Key team members:
• Monitor Jonathan Aronie is a partner in the Sheppard law firm, working in its government contract and internal investigations practice. According to his submitted biography, Aronie has conducted "countless complex internal investigations" and implemented compliance programs for major corporate clients. Aronie also served as deputy monitor over the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department during its 2002 to 2008 consent decree.
• Lead police practices expert and primary monitor Dennis Nowicki is the former chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Police Department. Nowicki also served as chief of the Joliet, Ill., Police Department. He was a Chicago police officer for 26 years. Nowicki was part of the monitoring team in Washington, D.C., and worked on the original monitoring team for a consent decree still in place over the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department.
The firm has significant consent-decree experience. Aronie worked as deputy monitor in Washington. Former U.S. Attorney Peter Morris, a member of the Sheppard Mullin legal team, monitored the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for discriminatory hiring practices under a consent decree. Robert McNeilly, another member of Sheppard Mullin's proposed NOPD monitoring team, was the chief of the Pittsburgh Police Department while it was under a consent decree from 1997 to 2002. Unlike Hillard Heintze, Sheppard Mullin is a law firm, so it does not lack legal experience.
Even Sheppard Mullin's supporters, including the DOJ and CUC, point out that the firm has yet to identify and cultivate relationships with locals. "Sheppard has yet to create a robust community component," Quigley's letter reads. "It needs to do serious work in that area in order to have a realistic chance of being effective as a monitor of the NOPD."
Then there's the price. The firm's four-year estimate is nearly $900,000 above Hillard Heintze's $7 million maximum price tag. And Sheppard Mullin's four-year maximum is $8.9 million.
The one member of the Sheppard Mullin team whose name came up frequently was Theron Bowman. In 2010 and 2011, Bowman worked under Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Roy Austin, who headed the investigation of the NOPD that led to the consent decree, from which the city is now hoping to extract itself. Sheppard Mullin even listed Austin, who is now on the selection committee, as a reference.
Kopplin also was concerned that Bowman's full-time job as a deputy city manager of Arlington, Texas, would get in the way of his monitor duties.
Bowman is not the only one who worked on the NOPD investigation. So did Ellen Scrivner, former deputy director of the National Institute of Justice, now part of Hillard Heintze's team. In any case, City Hall initially asked for and, until very recently, endorsed the DOJ investigation.
What the city says:
Kopplin, who didn't buy the DOJ's position that extensive legal experience trumped police manage- ment experience: "It seems to suggest that the job of running a monitoring team is bigger than the job of running a police department."
What the DOJ says:
Parker: "They're well-equipped to carry out the provisions of the consent decree, precisely because they've done them all before."
What the public says:
The Rev. Patrick Keen of Bethlehem Lutheran Church said the Pittsburgh decree, enacted under Nowicki's leadership, appears to have been a failure in the long term. The department is one of the most troubled in the country, with recent federal investigations for misuse of funds, a March public corruption indictment of another former chief and a brewing corruption scandal over the department's off-duty detail system, which is similar to the detail reform proposal for NOPD details under the consent decree here.
Most speakers, however, were either supportive of the firm or dismissive of the city's pick. Addressing the price issue, W.C. Johnson of CUC said it shouldn't matter. "We want constitutional policing in this city at any and all costs. We don't want a rush job," he said.
All this is predicated on the expectation that the city's attempts to void the consent decree will fail. Attorneys for the city filed an unsuccessful motion to vacate the agreement in late January and are appealing to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, the city is bound by court order to participate in the selection process.