NATIONAL NEWS

US: Unjustified force, bias still plague New Orleans police

Apr 7, 2023, 3:39 PM

FILE - New Orleans Police Capt. Michelle Woodfork speaks as the new interim police superintendent d...

FILE - New Orleans Police Capt. Michelle Woodfork speaks as the new interim police superintendent during a news conference at New Orleans City Hall, Dec. 20, 2022. Unjustified use of force, dangerous vehicle pursuits and racially biased policing continue to be problems for the New Orleans Police Department, the U.S. Justice Department said in a Friday, April 7, 2023, court filing, opposing the city's move to terminate a decade-old court-backed reform agreement. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Unjustified use of force, dangerous vehicle pursuits and racially biased policing continue to be problems for the New Orleans Police Department, the U.S. Justice Department said in a Friday court filing, opposing the city’s move to terminate a decade-old court-backed reform agreement.

The city has made progress in turning itself around, Justice Department lawyers said. “But progress towards compliance is not the same as full and effective compliance that has proven durable,” Friday’s court filing said.

The pact, known as a “consent decree,” was negotiated in 2012, after a consent decrees in cities around the country.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration now is trying to get the city released from the agreement, which governs a wide array of issues, including recruiting, training, discipline and use of force. An independent monitor keeps track of the police force’s compliance with the reforms.

Cantrell, a Democrat, has argued that the bureaucratic demands imposed by the agreement add to the expense and workload on an understaffed police force. And she has said that most of the reform requirements have been met.

But, while lauding the city’s efforts at compliance, and its self-reporting of problems, the Justice filing said there is still work to be done.

“NOPD’s own files, along with the Monitor’s reports, reveal that the City is out of compliance with key sections of the Decree,” the filing said. “NOPD officers have used unjustified force, engaged in dangerous pursuits, and failed to justify pat-downs.”

Friday’s filing did not site examples of unjustified, deadly police gunfire, such as the post-Katrina shootings that left four dead at the city’s Danziger Bridge. But it said a police department review board has fallen behind in investigating officers’ use of force.

“When the Review Board did conduct hearings, the findings were troubling,” the filing said. “According to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, the Review Board determined that 17 of the 28 serious uses of force by NOPD officers in 2021 — 61 percent— were not justified.”

The filing specifically cited a police officer’s use of a Taser on an unarmed man who had his hands raised and was wanted “only for a municipal summons.”

The police department’s own assessment of bias in its enforcement found that white drivers were less likely to be asked to get out of their cars during traffic stops, the Justice Department said.

New Orleans has the opportunity to seek changes to the consent decree, according to the Justice Department.

“Because the City can obtain the relief it seeks by simply filing a motion to enforce its interpretation of the Consent Decree, it cannot show that complete termination of the Decree is appropriate, let alone required,” Justice Department lawyers said.

Morgan, who continues to oversee the reform effort, has repeatedly praised the city’s progress. But, in recent months, she has expressed concerns that workforce and resource shortages at the police department could undermine reforms. The department has fewer than 1,000 officers — down from more than 1,300 a few years ago.

Friday’s filing by the Justice Department comes as Morgan and Cantrell’s administration continue a legal back-and-forth over public hearings related to the decree.

Morgan cancelled a public meeting about the reform agreement at a local university last week after Cantrell said she wouldn’t allow police officials to speak there, saying preparation for the meeting was a needless drain on police time and resources.

On Monday, Morgan followed up with an order that interim police Chief Michelle Woodfork and other officials appear at a hearing in her courtroom next week. She said they should prepare to provide information on issues, including the Alternative Police Response program, a plan to improve police emergency response by using non-officers to handle some types of nonemergency matters.

On Thursday, the city asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to cancel Morgan’s order. The city’s motion repeatedly refers to next week’s hearing as a court-ordered “press conference.” It said that in ordering the hearing, Morgan overstepped the authority she has as the judge overseeing the consent decree.

A 5th Circuit panel on Friday put off an immediate ruling but did put Morgan’s order regarding the meeting on a temporary hold. The panel ordered the Justice Department to respond to the city’s motion by noon Monday.

National News

Associated Press

US judge dismisses Republican challenge over counting of post-Election Day mail ballots in Nevada

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by national and state Republicans that sought to bar Nevada from counting mail ballots received after Election Day. A state law passed by Democrats in 2021 allows election officials to tally ballots received by 5 p.m. on the fourth day after Election […]

2 hours ago

Boson's mate second class Tyler Boon navigates a U.S. Coast Guard small response boat down the Milw...

Associated Press

Heavily armed security boats patrol winding Milwaukee River during GOP convention

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Instead of kayakers and tour boats, the summertime scene on the Milwaukee River has taken on a solemn tone this week during the Republican National Convention: Around-the-clock patrol boats, some with heavily armed officers. Security planners have had to contend with the winding waterways through Milwaukee near the Fiserv Center RNC convention […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

California first state to get federal funds for hydrogen energy hub to help replace fossil fuels

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will be the first state to receive federal funds under a program to create regional networks, or “hubs,” that produce hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles, manufacturing and generating electricity, officials announced Wednesday. The U.S. Department of Energy said the California Hydrogen Hub will receive an initial $30 million […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Appeals court refuses to lift order blocking rule meant to expand protections for LGBTQ+ students

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to lift a judge’s order temporarily blocking the Biden administration’s new Title IX rule meant to expand protections for LGBTQ+ students. The ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kept in place a preliminary injunction issued last month by a federal district […]

3 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Trump has given no official info about his medical care for days since an assassination attempt

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Four days after a gunman’s attempt to assassinate former President Donald Trump at a Pennsylvania rally, the public is still in the dark over the extent of his injuries, what treatment the Republican presidential nominee received in the hospital, and whether there may be any long-term effects on his health. Trump’s campaign […]

3 hours ago

Part of a stegosaurus skeleton is displayed at Sotheby's New York in New York, Wednesday, July 10, ...

Associated Press

Stegosaurus fossil fetches nearly $45M, setting record for dinosaur auctions

NEW YORK (AP) — The nearly complete fossilized remains of a stegosaurus fetched $44.6 million at auction Wednesday, Sotheby’s said. The buyer’s name was not disclosed. The fossil, dubbed “Apex,” is considered to be among the most complete ever found, according to the auction house. The price blew past a pre-sale estimate of $4 million […]

4 hours ago

US: Unjustified force, bias still plague New Orleans police