New Orleans Police Reform So Far: Window-Dressing Or Real Improvement?


In his legal battle to get out from under a costly federal consent decree governing reforms across the New Orleans Police Department, Mayor Mitch Landrieu argues that many of the changes the feds want already are in place, and that he is committed to doing the rest with or without a decree, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The U.S. Department of Justice claims that changes so far amount to window-dressing. Without court oversight, none of the reforms police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has touted will be cemented, the feds argue. “The New Orleans Police Department has been a troubled agency for decades, and these troubles continue,” Justice Department lawyers argued. “None of the City’s efforts to reform NOPD on its own have been successful.” Serpas points to a raft of policy reforms, infrastructure improvements, and officer training initiatives that he says have started to bear fruit. Many of them, he said, overlap with the demands of the consent decree, a roadmap for broad, court-ordered reforms aimed at bringing the agency up to constitutional snuff. Serpas argues that the constitutional lapses alleged by the feds remain unproved. In a status report through, Serpas claims the department has completed 60 of the 147 “action items” dictated in the consent decree, and that 80 more are in progress. A big advantage of the decree is money. The $7 million that the City Council’s approved this year to fund the agreement, Serpas said, will go in part toward hiring an additional 100 officers to a force that he says has lost 300 cops since he first arrived, and for new equipment. The city says $766,000 has been spent so far, the majority of it — $601,000 — on Tasers.

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