The New Orleans Police Department must make major changes if it wishes to decrease the city’s homicide rate, which stands at 10 times the national rate, the Justice Department says.
The NOPD should increase its community outreach, establish a homicide review group and improve its crime analysis, according to one of the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance reports. The police department also should add more staff to its homicide section and update the unit’s techniques, technology and practices, the second Bureau of Justice Assistance report said.
“Our review convinced us that the primary crime problem in New Orleans is homicide,” the first report says. “Other crimes need to be addressed, but their levels do not suggest a problem that the police and community cannot continue to address with the strategies and practices in place.”
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas has made significant progress on addressing many of the recommendations since he took the reins of the department in May 2010, according to the DOJ. But the DOJ acknowledged that change will not happen over night.
“We realize that in this report we have recommended a formidable agenda for a department that is already facing many challenges,” the first report says. “However, we are optimistic that the department can be successful. It has superb leadership; dedicated personnel who want to make the NOPD better; cooperation from local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies; and growing support from the community. The need is for continuity, time, and resources.”
News of the reports comes just days after the DOJ announced it concluded its year-long civil rights investigation of the NOPD. The DOJ said NOPD officers frequently used excessive force, stopped and searched people without a reason and discriminated against minorities.