Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley ruled last week that Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) violated the Louisiana Public Records Law by failing to produce a full police report requested by Brendan McCarthy, crime reporter for The Times-Picayune, in April. NOPD handed over the report in May, but all identifying victim information was blacked out. The newspaper filed suit in late June demanding the full record.
On July 2, Medley ordered the city to turn over the full incident report immediately. However, the judge said the city may delay producing the full report if it chooses to appeal his ruling. In an emailed statement, Landrieu's spokesman Ryan Berni said the city will appeal.
"This was a matter of protecting victims of crime," Berni wrote. "We have consistently provided more transparency and openness in city government and will do so within the bounds of the law."
The lawsuit stems from an alleged phone theft in April. McCarthy testified last week he was listening to a police scanner when he heard a conversation between two police officers in which the ranking officer seemed to be instructing his subordinate to downgrade the incident from a theft to a "Signal 21," meaning "lost or stolen property."
Lori Mince, an attorney for the newspaper, said that unlike thefts, Signal 21s are not included in Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Justice. If crimes are systematically downgraded, it can significantly skew the city's official crime rate by underreporting major crimes. — Charles Maldonado