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Feds Issue Consent Decree to Reform NOPD
CBD -- The U.S. Department of Justice issued the long-awaited consent decree to reform the NOPD Tuesday. Stemming from the 2011 DOJ report that slammed the department in the areas of use of force, civil rights and corruption, the decree mandates reforms that will be overseen by the feds. NoDef is at Gallier Hall, where U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and New Orleans officials including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas will speak on the reforms. Click through for a list of what the reforms lay out already, and a live-blog of the press conference.
The City and NOPD must reach "full and effective compliance" mandadted by the consent decree within four years. The reforms are spread between new technology and policies, like the use of in-car cameras, a limit to the number of hours that may be worked over 24-hours and new requirements for constitutional stops and searches. A press release spells out the following list of changes that will be enacted:
Follow below for live updates from Gallier Hall:
3:46: As the presser is about to come in, officials file into the room. All City Councillors and NOPD Commanders are present. US Atty Jim Letten looks like a sheriff out of the wild west. High button on his suit jacket, arms crossed, satisfied glare hovering above what might be the best 'stache in town.
3:51 Lots of recap from Holder on the federal investigation. The word comprehensive is coming out a lot. Mitch and Serpas looked uncomfortable. More recognition of Mitch and Serpas. Holder says the consent decree will "allow us to move foward together," and calls it a "critical step." Holder also says to police that the decree will "make your jobs easier." Twice in 60 seconds, he says the problems did not begin on Landrieu's watch.
3:56 Now Asst. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who has been overseeing the process for the DOJ, gets to say all the meaty stuff. Three goals of the consent decree: reducing crime, ensuring constitutionality of policing restoring public trust in NOPD. Perez says Serpas "did not wait to make reform." He also says it'll make police's job easier. The areas targeted by the decree: Areas targeted by: Policies, data tracking, paid details, recruitment, community oversight, accountability, task force supervision. Perez closes: "Today is about rebuilding a core and fundamental part of democracy."
4:01 Mayor Mitch takes the mic, and immediately thanks Obama. He thanks city residents, then Obama for efforts in rebuilding. Then everyone else. Now after over two years of work, the consent decree is done. But it's is only a milestone in what will be a long journey back for the NOPD," he says. He says rebuilding after the Flood would be for naught if residents did not feel safe and free. He says he hopes the decree brings a measure of closure to all the families of victims of police violence.
4:03: TV Update courtesy of a reader: WWL is showing the consent decree, Fox and NBC went back to Drew Brees' press conference, and WGNO is showing divorce court. We have a man in the room.
4:06 Da Mayor continues, referencing the 65-point plan for NOPD reform, and says the city did not wait. He starts to wax on the reform, focusing on details and community policing. He says there will be more training and better equipment, and all cars will have onboard cameras so there will be no more "he said-she said." He then gives stats that show sexual assault cases are now taken seriously, whereas previously they were ignored. With authority, Landrieu declares, "This is the new NOPD," and asks those who don't like the new NOPD to leave, because it starts today. But the DOJ ain't gonna fix it all, he says. It starts and ends with us - New Orleans.
4:10 Now Serpas. He says he is proud to be a member of the NOPD. Serpas opens by bragging about how his first policy required officers to always tell the truth, not to file false or inaccurate reports. He talks about how there has been more community policing in the past two years. Now, there will be community advisory boards providing input to the police department, he says. "Two years ago, we had half the homicide detectives we have today." The new detectives are thanks to the feds, he says. Serpas talks about a raised standard for recruiting that has been implemented, minimum of 60 hours college credit or 2 yr service in military. "I am confident crime will go down," he says.
4:17 Jim Letten is fired up. He is very proud. Nowhere in this great country is there the "bare knuckle" struggle against nature and corruption as in this city, he says, turning red. "Nothing less than complete success is acceptable." Talking to NOPD he says: "failure is not an option." City Attorney Richard Cortizas chimes in. "This is truly the most extensive consent decree in the history of the U.S." he says.
4:20 Here's a longer quote from Landrieu:
"To the the men and women of the new orleans police department, know that your mission is to protect and serve, know also that i will do whatever i can tomprovide you with the resources you need to fulfill that mission. We stand by you during the processs,myou in fact occupy a sacred place in American democracy, at once with your interactions with citizens, you could be the most powerful person they see, the distance between them and their liberty. So, my message to you should be clear, for those of you who have done the great things you have done in the past, please buy into the new NOPD and continue to do the work. To those of you who don't -- please leave.ntoday would be a good day to start. We are moving forward."
4:23 Question time. The group is asked if the federal monitor is the best way to oversee the changes.. Asked about fed monito. Serpas says the federal monitor is neutral. Landrieu says his administration from the beginning believes in full cooperation of all levels of govt provides most effective police and governance.
4:26 Asked about four year decree, and if it's too short. Thomas Perez says it's a four year minimum, Feds will be here as long as necessary. Serpas is asked if he had any disagreements with the decree: "No. No. ...there was very little disagreement. ...I'm very satisfied."
4:28 This statement just came in from Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. She says she wasn't involved in the process of negotiating the decree, but had hoped to be:
"We don't know what to fully expect from this consent decree because we haven’t seen it. We had hoped to be a part of negotiations, to give meaningful input to the city or at least to to the written version before it was signed.That didn’t happen, but regardless of the outcome, we will do our best to perform our function as the public mandated. We all have the same goal of greater public safety and we hope that our partners in the city and in the Department of Justice will take advantage of our on the ground expertise and experience.I think it's most appropriate to fully digest the consent decree rather than make a comment at this time. Obviously we had hoped to have a strong role in this consent decree so we are anxious to review it. We have been working with this department for two years and have a unique, expertise which is grown out of our on the ground work. Our greatest hope is that this consent decree will give the people of New Orleans one of the best police departments in the country. I have every confidence that this consent decree will respect our citizens who worked very hard to get this office in place and we plan to be here for a long time. We are a conduit between the people of New Orleans and its Police Department and whatever our role in this written consent decree, we will continue to do our jobs."
4:32 Mayor Landrieu says the new changes will cost the City an additional $11 million per year.
4:40 And that's a wrap at Gallier. Stay with NoDef for more updates on specific reforms as they become available.
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