NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A federal investigation of the New Orleans Police Department found "disrespectful conduct in the community, corruption, unnecessary uses of force, and improper stops and searches," stemming from systemic failures in policy, training, supervision and oversight. In 2009, the NOPD arrested 500 black men and eight white men for serious offenses, and the canine unit was so mismanaged the dogs regularly attacked their handlers, the Justice Department reported.
The report found numerous instances of legal violations, in some instances because the laws are convoluted, outdated, or police didn't know them.
Just 24 percent of NOPD officers feel they have enough training, the investigation found.
The report recommends the department try to recruit highly qualified, capable officers.
"NOPD's longstanding failure to prioritize the recruitment of high-qualified candidates contributes to the chronic, department-wide problems we observed, including inappropriate and disrespectful conduct in the community, corruption, unnecessary uses of force, and improper stops and searches. We found NOPD's recruitment program to be anemic, entirely passive, and lacking clear goals, plans, or accountability," the report said.
The investigation found that officers were rarely disciplined for use of excessive force; that officers regularly fail to articulate the facts to justify stops, searches and arrest, and often don't know the law on proper stops, searches and arrests; that officers fail to provide effective policing services to people with limited English proficiency; and that officers systematically misclassify potential sexual assaults, and conduct "seriously deficient" investigations of alleged sexual assaults and domestic violence cases, and mishandle responses to domestic-abuse calls.
The investigation found that "even the most serious uses of force, such as officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, are investigated inadequately or not at all" by the NOPD.
In fact, "NOPD's mishandling of officer-involved shooting investigations was so blatant and egregious that it appeared intentional in some respects.
"For a time, NOPD had a practice of temporarily assigning officers who had been involved in officer-involved shootings to the Homicide Division, and then automatically deeming the statements officers provided to homicide investigators to be 'compelled,' effectively immunizing the use of these statements in any subsequent criminal investigation or prosecution," the report said.
"Arrest data provided by NOPD indicates that in 2009, the department arrested 500 African-American males and eight white males for serious offenses."
Meanwhile, "during this same period the department arrested 65 African American females and one white female in this same group.
"Adjusting for population, these figures mean that the ratio of arrest rates for both African-American males to white males, and African-American females to white females was nearly 16 to 1."
Meanwhile, "nationally in 2009, among those agencies reporting data, the arrest ratio of African-American youth to white youth, for the same offenses, was approximately 3 to 1."
All 27 people shot by police officers between January 2009 and May 2010 were black.
NOPD policies are neither solidly written nor carefully enforced, and officers tend to make shockingly poor decisions with respect to force, the report found.
And "systemic deficiencies in NOPD's investigation and review of officer-involved shootings are so egregious that they appear in some respects to be deliberate," the report found.
"Despite clear and systemic problems with how NOPD officers use deadly force, NOPD has not found that an officer-involved shooting violated policy in at least six years, and NOPD officials we spoke with could recall only one out-of-policy finding even before that time."