History of the Consent Decree
In May 2010, the City invited the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") to conduct a full investigation of the New Orleans Police Department. As part of its investigation DOJ, in conjunction with its police-practices consultants, conducted a detailed fact-finding review including numerous tours of NOPD facilities; interviews with New Orleans officials, NOPD command staff, supervisors, and police officers; review of more than 36,000 pages of documents; and meetings with residents, community groups, and other stakeholders within the City. In addition, DOJ participated in detailed exit interviews between its police-practices consultants and NOPD officials following each investigatory tour.
DOJ issued a written report of its findings ("Report") on March 16, 2011. The Report documents DOJ's finding of a number of patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct and details DOJ's concerns about a number of NOPD policies and practices.
On July 24, 2012 the Parties submitted a proposed Consent Decree to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, in an effort to resolve the claims brought by the United States without resort to adversarial litigation and to support vigorous and constitutional law enforcement. The Court granted the Parties' joint motion to approve the Consent Decree on January 11, 2013. The Court subsequently appointed the Monitor on August 9, 2013.
Summary of Practices and Key Provisions
The Consent Decree is comprehensive in nature and details specific areas for corrective action including: use of force; stops, searches, seizures and arrests; photographic lineups; custodial interrogations; bias-free policing; policing free of gender bias; community engagement; recruitment; training; performance evaluations; promotions; officer assistance and support; supervision; secondary employment; and misconduct-complaint intake, investigation and adjudication.
The Consent Decree represents a proactive and robust mandate for reform of the policies, training, and practices of the NOPD with specific agreed-upon corrective actions and timeframes for implementation. What follows is a summary of the key provisions. The full text of the Consent Decree can be viewed here.
Policies and Training
NOPD agrees that its policies and procedures shall reflect and express the Department's core values and priorities, and provide clear direction to ensure that officers and civilian employees enforce the law effectively and constitutionally. NOPD and the City agree to ensure that all NOPD officers and employees are trained to understand and be able to fulfill their duties and responsibilities pursuant to NOPD policies and procedures.
Use of Force
NOPD agrees to develop and implement force policies, training, and review mechanisms that ensure that force by NOPD officers is used in accordance with the rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and that any unreasonable uses of force are identified and responded to appropriately. NOPD agrees to ensure that officers use non-force techniques to affect compliance with police orders whenever feasible; use force only when necessary, and in a manner that avoids unnecessary injury to officers and civilians; and de-escalate the use of force at the earliest possible moment.
Crisis Intervention Team
NOPD agrees to minimize the necessity for the use of force against individuals in crisis due to mental illness or a diagnosed behavioral disorder.
Stops, Searches, and Arrests
NOPD agrees to ensure that all NOPD investigatory stops, searches, and arrests are conducted in accordance with the rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States. NOPD agrees to ensure that investigatory stops, searches, and arrests are part of an effective overall crime prevention strategy; are consistent with community priorities for enforcement; and are carried out with fairness and respect.
NOPD agrees to ensure that officers conduct custodial interrogations in accordance with the subjects' rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including the rights to counsel and against self-incrimination. NOPD agrees to ensure that custodial interrogations are conducted professionally and effectively, so as to elicit accurate and reliable information.
NOPD agrees to ensure that photographic line-ups are conducted effectively and in accordance with the rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, so as to elicit accurate and reliable information.
NOPD agrees to deliver police services that are equitable, respectful, and bias-free, in a manner that promotes broad community engagement and confidence in the Department. In conducting its activities, NOPD agrees to ensure that members of the public receive equal protection of the law, without bias based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and in accordance with the rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Policing Free of Gender Bias
NOPD agrees to respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault and domestic violence professionally, effectively, and in a manner free of gender-based bias, in accordance with the rights secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States. NOPD agrees to appropriately classify and investigate reports of sexual assault and domestic violence, collaborate closely with the DA and community partners, including the NOFJC, and apply a victim-centered approach at every stage of its response.
NOPD agrees to promote and strengthen partnerships within the community, and to engage constructively with the community, to ensure collaborative problem-solving and ethical and bias-free policing, and to increase community confidence in the Department.
NOPD and the City, working with the Civil Service Commission, agree to develop and implement a comprehensive recruitment program that successfully attracts and hires a diverse group of highly qualified and ethical individuals to be NOPD police officers. NOPD and the City, working with the Civil Service Commission, agree to ensure that NOPD's recruit program assesses each applicant in a manner that is valid, reliable, fair, and legally defensible.
Academy and In-Service Training
NOPD is committed to ensuring that all officers and employees receive adequate training to understand the law and NOPD policy and how to police effectively. NOPD training shall reflect and instill agency expectations that officers police diligently, have an understanding of and commitment to the constitutional rights of the individuals they encounter, and employ strategies to build community partnerships to more effectively increase public trust and safety.
Officer Assistance and Support
NOPD agrees to provide officers and employees ready access to the mental health and support resources necessary to facilitate effective and constitutional policing.
Performance Evaluations and Promotions
NOPD agrees to ensure that officers who police effectively and ethically are recognized through the performance evaluation process, and that officers who lead effectively and ethically are identified and receive appropriate consideration for promotion. NOPD shall further ensure that poor performance or policing that otherwise undermines public safety and community trust is reflected in officer evaluations so that NOPD can identify and effectively respond.
NOPD and the City agree to ensure that an adequate number of qualified first-line supervisors are deployed in the field to allow supervisors to provide the close and effective supervision necessary for officers to improve and grow professionally; to police actively and effectively; and to identify, correct, and prevent misconduct.
Secondary Employment System
The City shall completely restructure what is currently known as its Paid Detail system to ensure that officers' and other NOPD employees' off-duty secondary employment does not compromise or interfere with the integrity and effectiveness of NOPD employees' primary work as sworn police officers serving the entire New Orleans community. To achieve this outcome, the City shall develop and implement an off-duty secondary employment system that comports with applicable law and current professional standards.
Misconduct Complaint Intake, Investigation, and Adjudication
NOPD and the City agree to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are received and are fully and fairly investigated; that all investigative findings are supported using the preponderance of the evidence standard and documented in writing; and that all officers who commit misconduct are held accountable pursuant to a disciplinary system that is fair and consistent.
Transparency and Oversight
To ensure comprehensive, effective, and transparent oversight of NOPD, NOPD and the City agree to develop, implement, and maintain systems that are meant to be sustained after the completion of this Agreement. To facilitate effective and constitutional policing and increase trust between NOPD and the broader New Orleans community, these oversight systems shall ensure that improper incidents, practices, or trends are identified and corrected in an equitable and timely manner.