Monitor: Questionable stops, searches by New Orleans police
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Questionable vehicle stops and searches, insufficient record keeping and inadequate supervision by sergeants, lieutenants and captains have plagued task forces assembled by the New Orleans Police Department to combat crime, court-appointed experts said in a report released Friday.
The report was filed in U.S. District Court by a firm hired to gauge the city’s compliance with reforms ordered in a 2012 court agreement, called a consent decree, with the U.S. Justice Department.
The report said the city continues to make progress in complying with the multifaceted order. It does not details specific incidents. It also does not raise allegations of questionable use of force — a problem that led to calls for reform more than a decade ago as incidents came to light of deadly force against unarmed civilians following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Friday’s report comes as police departments nationwide are under scrutiny following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and amid protests against racism and police brutality following the death of Floyd and others.
New Orleans protests have been largely peaceful but Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson was on the defensive recently after tear gas was used against demonstrators attempting to cross a major bridge spanning the Mississippi River.
The report dealt with task forces assembled in each of the city’s police districts. The department has described them as not having specific missions. They were there to act on “field intelligence” about ongoing crime.
The use of those task forces had been suspended in anticipation of Friday’s report. Ferguson said a day earlier that the task forces might be reinstated, with reforms. But he added that he is open to alternatives.
While the report gave few specific examples, it did note a troubling incident reported in May by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate involving evidence that members of a French Quarter task force “may have conspired to ‘get their stories straight’” following the search of a person on Bourbon Street.
In its formal response, included in the report, the police department said it concurred with the findings, and it outlined corrective actions planned.
“Task force supervisors, District Lieutenants and Captains will be held accountable for the failures of the members of their Units when those failures caused or enabled by inadequate supervision,” the 11-page response said.
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