Mayor of New Orleans praises progress of police department
by Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans.
Leadership of the Baltimore Police Department visited New Orleans over the past week to see first hand the significant progress the New Orleans Police Department has made to strengthen and reform the department under our federal consent decree. The NOPD was able to share innovative ways the department has implemented key reforms, including new transparency, independent investigations of police misconduct, new technology and community policing.
We are building a world-class Police Department that is now better-trained, better-supervised and better-equipped to deliver the professional and constitutional services that our residents expect and deserve. Under the leadership of Chief Michael Harrison, I have no doubt that our Police Department is quickly becoming a leader and that because of our reforms, we are many years ahead of most of the departments across our nation.
The Baltimore officials are looking to New Orleans police as an example of reform and a leader in modernizing policing, NOPD said.
The fact of the matter is that an overwhelming majority of the men and women at NOPD wake up each and every morning to protect and serve our community. They sacrifice and put their lives on the line. Because of their work, we are on a path to rebuild the trust between the NOPD and the community so that when mistakes are made, the police and community remain united as one.
To ensure heinous cover-ups like what happened in the Danziger and Henry Glover cases never happened again, FBI agents are assigned full-time to NOPD to partner with our officers on all investigations of serious uses of force by police officers. At our request, the FBI agents are embedded in our Public Integrity Bureau, which is now run by a civilian attorney. The city also has an Independent Police Monitor who operates in the Office of the Inspector General to monitor investigations and misconduct. These unique partnerships allow for transparent and accountable investigations and increase community trust in the investigative process.
To continue to weed out any bad officers, this fall, NOPD will launch a sophisticated new personnel management tool aimed at helping supervisors intervene and support officers before they exhibit problematic behavior. This new system named INSIGHT is one of the only data systems of its kind in the country, and with a price tag of more than $4 million, is the largest single technology investment that NOPD has made in its 200-year history. NOPD also recently launched one of the first peer intervention programs in the nation called EPIC or Ethical Policing is Courageous, which seeks to empower officers on the streets to intervene when they see a colleague doing something wrong or unethical.
Police interactions with individuals with mental illnesses or behavior disorders also has been an area where the NOPD of the past had a spotty record. Frankly, it can be a uniquely dangerous situation for both officers and citizens. Our new NOPD has worked with community mental health providers to teach officers in how to best interact with such individuals and has trained 20 percent of its patrol officers in specialized Crisis Intervention Training.
NOPD has also seen a remarkable turnaround in its sex crime and domestic violence investigations, which have now been praised by our consent decree monitors, the inspector general and advocates.
To improve transparency and accountability, NOPD was one of the first major police departments in the country to release all of its calls for service data online in 2011, and since then the department has built upon that commitment to transparency by releasing new data sets on stops and searches, arrests and uses of force. In fact, just this past week, NOPD released extensive use of force data to the public. These investments in transparency have not only helped to build community trust but also led to organizations like the Sunlight Foundation recognizing NOPD as a national leader in the open data movement.
Beyond the requirements of the consent decree, NOPD voluntarily launched one of the nation’s largest body-worn camera programs in the country in 2014 and now has more than 800 cameras for our officers. Program statistics indicate that officers are consistently using the cameras in 99 percent of all incidents, and these videos are being used to assist with criminal investigations as well as internal investigations. There is no more “he said, she said.”
To end the prison pipeline, NOPD changed its arrest policies and now issues summonses in lieu of arrest for minor offenses to reduce pressure on the jail population and to ensure a focus on violent criminals. And knowing that law enforcement alone cannot solve our city’s violence problems, the NOPD’s work under our NOLA for Life strategy has won national praise for its innovation. In fact, NOPD is the lead agency among our federal, state and local law enforcement’s Multi-Agency Gang Unit, which targets our city’s most violent criminals. Better cooperation between the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department is netting higher clearance and conviction rates. As a result, 2014 saw the lowest number of murders in 43 years. And we are building on those successes in 2016.
One of our major remaining challenges is growing our ranks. We are on pace to reach 150 recruits for the year, once again growing the Police Department beyond attrition. We will continue to focus on ensuring that our recruitment efforts attract the best and brightest our city and region have to offer and that our recruits can relate to the communities they serve. In fact, today, in contrast to most departments across the country, ours closely resembles that racial makeup of our city — now 57 percent African-American with growing Hispanic and Asian members.
As we continue to grow, the key will be to ensure that the good work of the past six years continues and is institutionalized. We must continue to improve hiring, training, community policing. If we do, the new NOPD will continue to be a department that can be learned from.