The New Orleans City Council reviewed Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed $4.5 million budget for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) last Thursday, but much of the council's discussion focused on one component of the OIG: Independent Police Monitor (IPM) Susan Hutson.
Hutson's office, created in 2009, has a broad mandate: taking citizen complaints, studying the effectiveness of New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) policy and oversight of the Public Integrity Bureau. Hutson has said her portion of the OIG budget — which pays for a staff of four — has inhibited the office's ability to carry out that mandate.
"I want you to do more," said council president Stacy Head last week, adding that she wanted to give her more resources. Head and other council members were particularly interested in Hutson's involvement in the proposed consent decree between the NOPD and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The consent decree calls for a federal monitor to oversee NOPD's progress. The city and DOJ are in the process of identifying a contractor for the job, which will be worth approximately $10 million over the four-to-five-year life of the decree. Hutson said that despite her experience with police consent decrees — she worked in the OIG for the Los Angeles Police Department while it was under a consent decree — the city has not sought her counsel in identifying a company for the contract. Head asked the Landrieu administration to get Hutson's input in the process.
The selection of the consent decree monitor will be made jointly by the DOJ and the city," mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni told councilmembers, adding that any decision to increase Hutson's role would be up to U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan, who is overseeing the implementation of the agreement.
Budget hearings are set to continue this week beginning with Criminal District Court, District Attorney's office and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office on Monday. — CHARLES MALDONADO