NEW ORLEANS -- A day after the City of New Orleans asked a judge to toss out the federal consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department, the Department of Justice responded to a claim that the feds acted in "bad faith," among other contentions by the city.
"We are disappointed with the city’s misguided rejection of this collaborative response through baseless claims that impede the reform process," said a statement from the Department of Justice.
Part of the city's argument for voiding the consent decree was that the Justice Department misled the city on several issues and had a “pattern of misrepresenting facts.”
The Department of Justice, however, contends: "The city’s legal team was at the table with the Civil Rights Division throughout the negotiations of both the jail and police department consent decrees. Without these consent decrees the criminal justice system in New Orleans will remain broken, a fate neither the residents of New Orleans nor the hard working members of the New Orleans Police Department deserve."
The city claims that the inclusion of Sal Perricone in the consent decree, the former assistant U.S. Attorney who was forced out from his position for his caustic postings on NOLA.com, tainted the process. Perricone was the liaison from the U.S. Attorney's Office during the negotiations.
The Landrieu administration filed the motion Thursday. Being saddled with the financial hardship of a second consent decree -- this one with the Orleans Parish Prison -- is another contention by the city. The city claims calls for assistance by the DOJ went unanswered.
The DOJ responded: "As part of our ongoing efforts to work collaboratively with the city to resolve the serious constitutional deficiencies in the New Orleans criminal justice system, the department has provided the city millions of dollars in grants, technical assistance and other aid," said the statement from the Justice Department.
A statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center was far less diplomatic at the news that city and is challenging the consent decree. "Contrary to the Mayor’s statement, the City has known of the illegal and brutal practices of both the NOPD and OPP for years. The Mayor and the people in New Orleans know that both systems are desperately in need of reform, and many of us are grateful that the Federal government finally stepped in to fix what New Orleans has failed to fix for years. For too long, residents have complained to the City that we and our loved ones have suffered extreme harm in our jail and at the hands of our police," Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Schwartzmann added: "If the Mayor is concerned about money, he should take a hard look at the size of our jail, and the wasteful spending that is neither keeping citizens safe nor reducing recidivism. We now have to pay the price of ignoring the brutality in the jail for years."
“The department is firmly committed to implementing the comprehensive, carefully negotiated reforms in the consent decree. We strongly disagree with the city's motion to abandon the court approved agreement and we will make our disagreement clear in a formal response to the court," said the statement from the DOJ.