Following several months of investigation after a damning report from the New Orleans Inspector General, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has not found criminal violations in its review of several NOPD Sex Crimes and Child Abuse detectives. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said NOPD is "winding down" its investigation and has found administrative violations, including neglect of duty, improper documentation and other problems.
At a press conference at Gallier Hall Aug. 11, surrounded by state legislators and city officials, Mayor Mitch Landrieu welcomed reform efforts within the department as a new report from the Sexual Violence Response Advisory Committee outlined recommendations and steps taken thus far to repair the troubled unit. "For far too long, quite frankly, we've done a poor job" responding to sexual assault, Landrieu said, adding that, with guidance from the committee as well as the federal monitor overseeing the consent decree, "We don't sweep anything under the rug." Landrieu also signed an executive order to accept the committee's recommendations, along with requiring NOPD to submit quarterly reports on its progress.
Changes within the department include adding two detectives and a supervisor to the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse units, hiring a third lab technician to process rape kits at the Louisiana State Police crime lab, and requiring 32 hours of training in addition to four hours of training on sexual assault response. NOPD also will use a private lab to expedite processing rape kits to clear its current backlog of 180 kits.
Harrison added that he is in the process of hiring three social workers to assist detectives and victims and has asked the Civil Service Commission to approve a 5 percent pay raise for detectives to begin in January 2016. Tulane University's Tania Tetlow, who chairs the committee, said she hopes the pay raise will help attract and retain "an elite unit."
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, who has authored several pieces of legislation on sexual assault response, called the "apathy" toward sexual assault among statewide law enforcement "a cancer" that has only been treated with Band-Aids, not lasting reform. In New Orleans, he said, NOPD and partner agencies are "doing invasive surgery."