The New Orleans Police Department will implement a score of new reform measures in the wake of a number of alleged abuses by the police force, according to a Justice Department announcement on Tuesday.
The consent decree between NOPD and the Justice Department ends the department’s two years of investigation of systematic flaws within the force. The Justice Department announced changes to the NOPD’s “use of force; stops, searches and arrests; custodial interrogations; photographic line-ups; preventing discriminatory policing; community engagement; recruitment; training; officer assistance and support; performance evaluations and promotions; supervision; misconduct investigations; and NOPD’s system of secondary employment, also known as paid details,” according to a news release.
The agreement also requires the installation of an outside monitoring team to oversee the wide-ranging reforms to the department. The consent decree is in effect for two years, or until the monitoring team deems it unnecessary.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in New Orleans to announce the reforms, said the agreement is one of the most “wide-ranging in the department’s history.”
“There can be no question that today’s actions represent a critical step forward,” Holder said according to prepared remarks. “…And although it’s clear that there can be no one-size-fits-all prescription for police department reform, it’s my hope that the common-sense steps contained in this consent decree will serve as a reference point — and a potential model for success — in our future efforts.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked for the Justice Department investigation two years ago, saying he wanted a “complete transformation” of the police department. The Justice Department’s detailed its investigation of the department in a scorching report, released in March 2011, which outlined a litany of alleged abuses by the New Orleans Police Department. The year-long 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 police department also failed to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, according to the report.
The police force was embroiled in controversy following the devastation to the region by Hurricane Katrina. A handful of officers received lengthy jail sentences after being found guilty of participating and covering up a fatal shooting on the city’s Danziger Bridge on Sept. 5, 2005.
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez said the consent decree marks a new beginning for the New Orleans Police Department.
“In the years since Hurricane Katrina devastated this great city, New Orleans has undergone a rebirth,” he said according to prepared remarks. ”…Today is about rebuilding a core part of the fundamental infrastructure of democracy – an effective, accountable police department that reduces crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.
New Orleans U.S. Attorney Jim Letten was also on hand for Tuesday’s announcement.