The Justice Department will immediately begin an evaluation of the New Orleans Police Department that will likely lead to a consent decree, federal officials announced at a news conference Monday.
“We already have boots on the ground right now. We will spend a lot of time here in the weeks and months ahead in the city of New Orleans,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said Monday.
Earlier this month, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice for help in rooting out abuse and corruption in the police department.
In a letter to Landrieu officially agreeing to conduct the assessment, Perez said the probe will identify areas or practices that need to be reformed and “examine allegations of excessive force, unconstitutional searches and seizures, racial profiling, failures to provide adequate police services to particular neighborhoods and related misconduct.”
At the news conference, Landrieu said that the city “must totally transform the criminal justice system.” He also called that the level of crime in the city was “unnatural and unacceptable.”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten was also on hand for the announcement along with Department of Justice Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin Jr.
The assessment will likely lead to a consent decree with the city, a legally binding agreement that would allow the department to step in and institute changes, including the appointment of a federal monitor who would oversee any reforms.
Main Justice reported Friday that the Justice Department had accepted Landrieu’s request for an evaluation of the New Orleans Police Department.
The police department was already the subject of at least eight open civil rights investigations. DOJ had been investigating a post-Hurricane Katrina shooting in which New Orleans police officers allegedly shot at unarmed civilians in the wake of the 2005 hurricane that devastated the city.
Update 10:10 p.m. In an interview with The New York Times before the news conference, Perez said he was optimistic about the pattern and practice investigation because of unusually widespread support for federal involvement from New Orleans citizens and officials.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in other cities at this early stage,” said Perez. “Often we spend months and sometimes years building that consensus.”
Perez said he felt that “right now the time is ripe and the critical forces have really come together.”
Leah Nylen contributed to this story.
UPDATE: The letter from Perez to Landrieu is embedded below.
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