Criminal Justice

City of New Orleans wants out of NOPD consent decree

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan signed off Friday morning on a long-anticipated federal consent decree aimed at reforming the New Orleans Police Department and, in a surprise move, the city of New Orleans immediately said it wants out from under it.

“The Parties’ proposed Consent Decree filed on July 24, 2012, is approved as amended,” wrote Morgan in her judgment, which followed a Friday morning status conference.

In a separate court filing, labeled “Order and Reasons,” Morgan said the city had “informed the Court that it intends to file a motion seeking relief from the judgment entered in connection with this order under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”

The city has until Jan. 31 to file a motion with Morgan saying why it should be released from the consent decree, which comes with an estimate price tag of up to $55 million to the city, according to past comments made by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

A Friday morning status conference at the Hale Boggs Federal courthouse featured a passel of lawyers from the city attorney’s office. After about an hour in Morgan’s chambers, they emerged and immediately headed for the elevators.

The consent decree was hammered out after over two years of negotiations between the city and the Department of Justice.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Landrieu said the city can’t pay for the NOPD consent decree at the same time it’s being asked to foot the bill for another consent decree aimed at reforming the Orleans Parish jail.

Landrieu put the price tag of the jail consent decree at $17 million, “which is not budgeted for this year and would therefore bankrupt the City. If a federal judge ordered the City to pay $17 million, we would need to furlough every City employee, including police officers, for 28 days. It makes no sense to furlough or lay off police officers to give pay raises to prison guards.”

He went on to say that the city is already addressing problems at the Police Department. “Come hell or high water, we will continue to reform the police department.”

After the police reform package was released in June, The Lens reported that the city wasn’t nearly as involved in negotiations for a consent decree at the Orleans Parish jail as it had been with the NOPD decree.

The Orleans Parish jail consent decree was unveiled late last year. The city didn’t sign on to it and claimed it wasn’t sufficiently involved in the talks when Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the Department of Justice agreed to move forward on a reform plan for the jail late last year.

To implement the jail consent decree, Gusman asked the city for roughly $15 million beyond his typical annual budget. The city has repeatedly said it won’t write Gusman a blank check to pay for his mismanagement of the Orleans Parish jail.

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About Tom Gogola

Tom Gogola covered criminal justice for The Lens from February 2012 to May 2013. He is a veteran journalist and editor who has written on a range of subjects for many publications, including Newsday, New York, The Nation, and Maxim. Gogola was a 2011 winner of the Hillman Foundation Sidney Award, for his groundbreaking report in New York magazine detailing regulatory waste in the commercial fishing industry.

  • Here’s an idea, since the city is so broke. The state is just now getting around to auditing participants in the small landlord Road Home program. Let’s audit every single contract awarded at the state, federal or local level and recover all of the money that was looted by well connected middle men instead.

  • bro keith X

    I’m still awaiting THE LENS to comment on the HYPOCRISY of Mitch, but I keep forgetting, the City of New Orleans funds the Lens, so ya’ll can’t bite the hand that feeds ya’ll. So ridiculous. This mayor is the most racist/demonic animal in the history of the country!! And what makes him so diabolical, he got negroes who love him so much, until they refuse to believe this wonderful devil would pull the wool over their eyes. Its a sad day in New Orleans, when the “alleged” investigative newsletter is MUTE on this betrayal by lil Moon!!

  • Truth Teller

    I don’t think the city of N.O. should be resposible for Marlin Gusmans poor management, we will be paying him twice to steal. WOW… I’ll just move to another parish so I won’t have to fund this B.S.

  • I.M.

    “It makes no sense to furlough or lay off police officers to give pay raises to prison guards.” _itch Landrieu’s statement reflects his disdain towards a certain category of deputies. The front line deputies – those responsible for the daily supervision of incarcerated persons, deserve earn a living wage. A state commissioned deputy in this parish, earns less than $25k per year. By the way, this amount includes deputy state supplemental pay. It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to care for oneself, let alone a family – on such meager wages. If it makes no sense to provide a pay raise to “prison guards”, the prison guards should recognize how senseless it is to work for the current inadequate wages. If the “prison guards” had any clarity, they would execute a job action. What do they have to lose? They have already lost dignity, pride in their agency, respect of the public; some have lost their homes, cars, savings, etc. We should ask _ithc Landrieu and Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman – what will we do when there are no “prison guards” to guard the prisoners?

  • David Boudreaux

    With all the problems and expense with NOPD, should we consider disbanding NOPD and using the model that Jefferson Parish has?

    New Orleans Criminal Sherif’s Office would assume the duties of NOPD and thus the citizens of Orleans Parish would elect their “Policy Chief”.

    Having the Mayor’s own police department has not worked out so well for us and we would be free of The Justice Dept degree which will cost us millions and still not have a say in the police dept.

    Let’s face it ,Serpas answers to the Mayor not us.

  • Some else

    I’m with IM on this…great now we have the Mayor of the city pretty much saying the “prison guards” mean nothing to the safety of the city. Let’s throw the “prison guards” under the bus and use them as a scape-goat for the city’s budget problems.
    Without the “prison guards” aka SHERIFF DEPUTIES, the city would be in turmoil, regardless of what one says about them. Let’s say the Deputies don’t show up for work, because they don’t deserve the same treatment as the more grass cutting in the city, no more clean-ups after Mardi Gras parades. How about all of the projects they take on painting schools around the parish, or the clean-up initiative they have in Algiers?
    Where would the “high-class” officers of the NOPD bring their arrestees? They would have no facility to house them. Even though the Mayor’s comments say the “prison-guards” shouldn’t be doing any law enforcement work, they do. They help-out the NOPD with major events in the city, supplement patrols around the parish, locate wanted subjects with warrant-squads.
    How dare he equate the employees of the Sheriff’s Office as second class workers of a law enforcement community. Both agencies carry commissions, both have the powers of arrest and seizures, both have badges. Just because one makes WAY LESS than the other, don’t treat them differently.
    I ask the Mayor, would you work a tier/housing unit for a period of time to see how it really is to be a PRISON-GUARD?

  • Geomeo

    Consent decree is first step to Federalization and or privatization. The fed sets up the standards , that in reality can not be obtained and then the takeover begins. We have seen this method via public schools. This may be far reaching but I would prefer our local criminals in charge then our federal criminals…