Days before a devastatingly negative report revealed severe problems within the New Orleans Police Department task forces – which were disbanded in May – Mayor LaToya Cantrell argued that it is time to end federal oversight.
“We’ve demonstrated that we embrace reforms,” Cantrell said. “We’ve demonstrated that we have set the foundation to continue constitutional policing practices in the City of New Orleans. We do not to need to continue to waste money on transportation and hotel stays and that sort of thing that could be redirected back into public safety and public health for this community,” Cantrell said, noting that the city has spent $55 million funding the independent monitor.
However, days later federal monitors released a report that found NOPD task force officers conducted sops on a questionable legal basis, failed to keep adequate records, operated with little supervision, and engaged in unsafe practices. These are some of the same issues identified by the U.S. Department of Justice nine years ago which led to the adoption of the consent decree in the first place.
Though the task forces have since been disbanded, monitors stated in their report that the problems uncovered revealed a department-wide culture problem still exists. The NOPD has declined to answer questions about how many officers from the task force units have been reassigned, only saying that for now, task force officers are responding to service calls. The NOPD is expected to decide whether to reinstate the task forces by August 10, though NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson has said he is open to keeping them disbanded.
In spite of the negative report, Ferguson feels that the department has made significant progress – and has even become a model for departments across the country when it comes to equitable policing.
“I would ask that the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department to take a bow,” Ferguson said. “And I ask that the city of New Orleans stick your chest out because you have a department that has been leading the way for Constitutional policing.”
In December U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan who oversees the independent monitor had stated that the NOPD appeared on track for bringing the consent decree into its final stages this year, with complete independence in two years.