NEW ORLEANS (CN) – After a two-year federal investigation, the New Orleans Police Department on Tuesday agreed to a consent degree with the Department of Justice, meant to reduce discrimination, officer misconduct, use of force and other “systemic deficiencies.”
The police must meet some benchmarks as soon as 90 days from now.
The 124-page consent decree requires more police department transparency, encourages greater civilian oversight and increases community interaction and partnerships.
“Today’s action represents a critical step forward. It reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to the highest standards of fairness and professionalism and underscores our determination to work alongside our law enforcement partners to protect not only the safety – but the essential civil rights – of everyone in this country,” Attorney General Eric Holder told a crowd at the Tuesday press conference announcing the consent decree.
The consent decree requires close and comprehensive oversight by a court-appointed monitoring team, which will periodically submit public reports on the Police Department’s progress.
The agreement will remain in effect until the city demonstrates it has complied with its provisions for 2 years, or until the monitor’s assessment of the agreement’s outcome measures demonstrates sustained and continuing improvement in constitutional policing.
“Effective policing and constitutional policing go hand in hand,” Holder said Tuesday.
“This agreement is one of the most wide-ranging in the Department’s history, and requires the New Orleans Police Department to implement and sustain a variety of new policies and practices – related to training; the use of force; stops, searches, and arrests; sexual assault and domestic violence investigations; investigative and interrogative techniques; community policing; officer supervision; officer recruitment; officer assistance; and more – in order to address and remedy a range of unfair and illegal practices uncovered by a sweeping Justice Department investigation,” Holder said.
The consent decree will resolve the government’s allegations that the New Orleans Police Department engaged in a pattern of conduct that was discriminatory and unconstitutional, and that too often undermined the public’s trust and the city’s efforts to prevent crime.
The consent decree is the product of the United States’ investigation of the New Orleans Police Department, which began in May 2010 and resulted in a comprehensive reportin which the department found that the department has a pattern of unconstitutional misconduct.
The Justice Department found a pattern of excessive force, including stops, searches and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment. It also found evidence of discriminatory policing based on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
Implementation of the agreement will be overseen by the federal court, including a court-approved monitor to be jointly selected by the city and the United States.
Jim Letten, US Attorney for Eastern District of Louisiana, and Thomas Perez Assistant Attorney General simultaneously filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Louisiana on Tuesday alleging the police department’s pattern of civil rights violations and excessive force based on the two-year Department of Justice investigation.
The lawsuit claimed that “a significant portion of the arrest and investigative reports reviewed reflected apparent constitutional violations by NOPD officers, consistent with the findings of a previous DOJ investigation ten years prior.”
It added: “Discriminatory policing by NOPD takes the form of selective law enforcement based on protected status. This discriminatory policing includes, but is not limited to: failing to investigate adequately, on the basis of gender, incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence; failing to provide police services to persons with limited English proficiency; and disparate treatment of transgender individuals.”
Because the New Orleans Police Department accepts federal money, it must comply with federal law.
The Department of Justice has provided $8,282,713 to the New Orleans Police Department and the city for police services in the past three years.