In an interview with Main Justice Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten said as a native of New Orleans, he is proud of the Justice Department’s commitment to overhauling the city’s troubled police department.
“I know this community, I’m born and raised here in New Orleans. I’ve been U.S. Attorney here for a number of years, I’m a career prosecutor,” said Letten in an interview following Monday’s news conference, where federal officials announced they would conduct an investigation into the New Orleans Police Department. “On a professional level, and also on a very, very deeply personal level, I am committed to making sure that all of the resources possible are thrown into the process to help make NOPD the best police department in the country.”
Letten said the newly elected leadership in New Orleans was key to allowing the federal probe to more forward.
“I’ve known Mitch Landrieu since we were both very young men, and I have a great deal of respect for him. Literally, on the day after he won the election, my cell phone rang. It was a Sunday morning, and Mitch called me to acknowledge his interest in realizing a partnership with the Department of Justice,” Letten said.
Since that call, Letten said, Landrieu has continued to engage in robust dialogue with other DOJ officials, including Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Letten said he has spoken with Holder about the city’s police department several times, and the Attorney General is “very deeply aware of, committed to, and cognizant of the need for reform in the police department, the need for resources.”
“He is deeply aware of challenges our city and our department is faced,” Letten said. “This process didn’t happen yesterday.”
Letten also said the probe shows that the city is ready for changes.
“I’m extraordinarily excited to be in on the ground here in New Orleans. Our office has been aggressive and I think successful at I think attacking public corruption with a ferocity probably unmatched in recent history in this city, or perhaps in the history of this city at all. We’ve helped to fuel a real appetite for transparent government by the citizens and by the press corps, the press corps here really gets it.”
Perez will meet with community members to discuss their concerns about the police department. A local radio station has made audio of the news conference available on its website.