The U.S. Justice Department, invited to town by a desperate mayor, is beginning an unprecedented effort to remake the scandal-plagued New Orleans Police Department, whose already bad reputation was left as battered as the city it was charged to protect after Hurricane Katrina, reports the Washington Post. “I have inherited a police force that has been described by many as one of the worst police departments in the country,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
Since the federal agency’s arrival here, 13 police officers have been indicted in connection with the killing of civilians, and more are likely to follow. But rooting out corrupt officers is only part of the goal, because “doing that alone will not be enough to bring about the systemic reforms that are necessary to transform the department,” said Thomas E. Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. “The president and the attorney general are personally invested in the success of the New Orleans Police Department,” Perez added. “I’ve seldom seen a situation where we’re being invited in . . . and that in and of itself gives me optimism that we can succeed.”