NEW ORLEANS – United States District Court Judge Susie Morgan today issued a federal court order formally extending the contract between the City of New Orleans and the federal consent decree monitor, for what is anticipated to be the final time. The three-year extension marks the beginning of the end of the New Orleans Police Department’s transformation under the most extensive, comprehensive federal consent decree in the nation.
Judge Morgan’s order states: “As the Monitoring Team’s public reports have made clear, the New Orleans Police Department has made and continues to make tremendous progress in achieving the goals and mandates of the Consent Decree. The Monitoring Team’s reports have highlighted significant improvements in almost every area of the Consent Decree, including policies, training, supervision, custodial interrogations, sexual assault and domestic violence investigations, uses of force, use of force reporting, and use of force investigations.”
Today’s development underlines the dramatic progress the NOPD has made towards full compliance with the consent decree. With near-completion expected to be achieved in the coming year, the new agreement is structured to support the active monitoring program that has been in place to date for the duration of 2018, before down-shifting for the final two years into a “sustained monitoring” period.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said: “My goal has been to get the NOPD fully in compliance with the consent decree before I leave office next May. We are on our way, and this final contract extension marks a significant milestone in our partnership with the federal consent decree monitor. I am proud of the work our NOPD leadership has done to transform the department and to remake the police force into a 21st century institution. While sometimes painful and expensive, this process has been important in reestablishing trust between the police and community, which will make us safer.”
Chief Michael S. Harrison said: “We have turned a corner, and the tremendous effort the men and women of our department have put into the reforms has paid off. Within the lifetime of this contract, established today by Judge Morgan, we anticipate achieving full compliance with the federal consent decree and ultimately, the conclusion of this transformative process.”
The agreement comes on the heels of a survey released last week by the Office of the Consent Decree Monitor. The OCDM reported that 79% of officers believed Chief Harrison was leading the department in the right direction, and more than half believe the NOPD is a better organization than it was two years ago. In the same survey, nearly 60% of residents with interactions with NOPD believed the department had improved.
Such results stand in stark contrast to the state of the department in 2010, described by a Department of Justice report as “a troubled agency” where “systematic violations of civil rights [eroded] public confidence.”
At that time, the City of New Orleans committed wholeheartedly to improvement and to comprehensive reform. Today’s agreement marks the progress made toward meeting that commitment.
In order to ensure reforms remain beyond the consent decree, Mayor Landrieu and the NOPD will continue to work with New Orleans City Council in the coming weeks and months to put lasting regulations in place. Codifying key elements of the consent decree reforms into the city’s laws and regulations will cement more lasting changes, ensuring the progress made will remain once the decree has been lifted.