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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Consent decree or not, NOPD Chief Harrison wants "fair, constitutional policing"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 6:30 PM

click to enlarge NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison: "I remain committed and every member of my team remains committed to police reform." - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison: "I remain committed and every member of my team remains committed to police reform."

In a recent memo to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered an “immediate review” of all department activities, including all existing and planned consent decrees with law enforcement agencies. “Local control and local accountability are necessary for local policing,” Sessions wrote. “It is not the role of the federal government to manage non-federal law agencies.”

Since 2009, according to The Washington Post, the department has opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and enforced 14 consent decrees, among other agreements, in the wake of civil rights violations and corruption in police departments around the U.S. Those agreements include consent decrees with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, overseen by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), overseen by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan. Since 2013, DOJ reforms within NOPD — detailed in nearly 500 points on more than 100 pages — aim to overhaul nearly everything within the department, from anti-bias measures and profiling to how officers handle domestic violence cases, efforts to ensure “constitutional policing” across the board.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite — who was asked to leave his post even after he submitted his resignation as President Donald Trump cleaned house — said Sessions’ memo isn’t enough to end the agreements. “Not sure if Sessions knows this,” Polite said on Twitter, “but he can't stop Judges Africk and Morgan from ensuring that our NOLA consent decrees move forward.”

At the New Orleans City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee meeting April 5, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison says his department — “consent decree or not” — is committed to ensure it’s a “leader in policing in every aspect.”

But police unions have applauded the “law and order” Trump administration — which made “standing up for law enforcement” a focus of the White House. In New Orleans, officers have criticized the agreement for what they believe gets in the way of their policework, or “rail in private at many of the impositions of the document, starting simply with the crush of paperwork and documentation required for every action they take.”

“I’m aware of Sessions’ comments,” Harrison said. “I remain committed and every member of my team remains committed to police reform … and sustaining that public trust.”

Asked by At-Large City Councilmember Jason Williams whether Trump’s administration has any created any roadblocks for his department, Harrison said the election shouldn’t affect “21st century policing” despite “philosophical differences.”

“Who gets elected does not determine how well we deliver police services,” said Harrison, adding that NOPD is committed to fair and constitutional policing “because that’s the right thing to do.”

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