DOJ Scorches New Orleans Police for ‘Unconstitutional Conduct’
By David Baumann | March 17, 2011 1:32 pm

Concluding its year-long probe of the New Orleans Police Department, the Justice Department on Thursday ripped the department for systematic “unconstitutional conduct,” saying officers regularly used excessive force, stopped and searched people for no reason and discriminated against minorities.

“Our conclusions reveal that many NOPD officers have failed to live up to what we rightfully expect from our law enforcement officers,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said at a morning news conference in the Crescent City. “The overwhelming and undeniable facts discovered throughout this investigation show reasonable cause to believe that the New Orleans Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu (D) had requested the DOJ probe, saying he wanted a “complete transformation”  of his police department. The investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division, is likely to result in federal supervision of the department through a negotiated consent decree, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The newspaper said that Landrieu has indicated that he would welcome the oversight, which would be supervised by a federal judge and an independent monitor.

The investigation found that the NOPD routinely used unnecessary and unreasonable force, stopped and searched people for no apparent reason and discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.  The department failed to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, and failed to provide services to people with limited knowledge of English.

“Our investigation revealed that poor policies, non-existent training and inadequate leadership have led to these systemic problems,” Cole said, adding that DOJ outlined 15 pages of specific recommendations and intends to work with the city to solve the police department’s problems. Civil Rights Division Chief Thomas Perez also was in attendance at the news conference.

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