U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan will hold a hearing on the New Orleans Police Department’s federal consent decree on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
The Lens will live blog it here.
The hearing, the first to be held in open court since September, is one of four scheduled to be held over the next nine months. Each will focus on a different part of the consent decree.
Tuesday’s topic is training. The department has recently taken some steps in an attempt to improve its training programs and bring them in line with the terms of the consent decree. Early this year, the city began working with the FBI to train and certify academy instructors. And in October, Superintendent Michael Harrison announced that he was returning 23-year veteran Richard Williams to head up the Education, Training and Recruitment Division. Williams, who most recently worked in the Public Integrity Bureau, previously helmed the academy from 2007 to 2011.
Still, in December, a report by the federally appointed firm monitoring the department’s progress, found “significant shortcomings” in the department’s training programs.
The team observed an ethics course that started 30 minutes late and was taught by a substitute teacher who had little familiarity with the material. The instructor for a domestic-violence course talked at length about his relationship with his ex-wife, a tangent the report described as having “no obvious training component.”
The instructor’s message to the clase — protect yourself — “contributed to an ‘us versus them’ attitude which undermines constructive policy/community relations,” the monitors wrote.
The monitoring firm found the department used inadequate lesson plans, and in many cases no lesson plans at all. The report characterized the department’s training materials as out of date, pointing to a 1967 clip from the TV show “Dragnet” that was, until very recently, shown to new recruits.
“In the clip, Sergeant Joe Friday, played by Jack Webb, lectures a rookie officer on what it means to be a police officer,” the report says.
“While the clip certainly identified some of the difficulties associated with being an officer, on balance the clip reeks of an ‘us versus them’ (i.e., police versus citizen) attitude, which is a highly inappropriate message for any officer – let alone a new recruit – and inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the Consent Decree’s community engagement provisions.”