NOPD consent decree an expensive investment

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 6:22 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- The court-enforced federal consent decree, ordering sweeping reforms at the New Orleans Police Department, is estimated to cost the cash-strapped city millions of dollars a year.

Most of which, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, will have to come from local coffers.

"There are some funds that we have to pay for ourselves," said Landrieu. "We have to improve technology, we have to put cameras in the cars and it's going to cost about $11 million a year over the four- or five-year period of time."

The 123-page agreement addresses long standing allegations of systemic discriminatory and unconstitutional activity by NOPD officers and their commanders.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose team helped negotiate the consent decree, said he's not sure if federal funds are available to help pay the cost of implementation.

"What we do know is when this city produces a more efficient police department, the growth that we're experiencing, which is considerable, is really going to take off," Letten said.

One national expert on police accountability says turning around the NOPD will be difficult.

"The analogy here is you own a house and you neglect it for 25 years," said University of Nebraska at Omaha criminal justice professor Samuel Walker. "The department has been neglected in all of these accountability areas, and it's going to cost a lot of money to fix it."

Walker said reforms at the NOPD have a good chance of success.

"Success is not guaranteed. Some people have to make it work, some people have to put in a lot of hard work and make some tough decisions and really stay with it, day in and day out, year in and year out," Walker said. "I know the mayor has been very committed to this and he made a point of hiring a chief who is committed to this. The chief's 65-point plan is very, very good."

The mayor promises to find the money to pay for the reforms.

"We we have to reorganize to make government more efficient and sometimes we have to take the savings from that and reinvest it in our priorities," Landrieu said.

"The evidence we have at present is that consent decrees are a very valuable and effective tool for a department that has some serious problems," Walker said.

While it will be expensive to fully implement the consent decree, one U.S. Department of Justice official says dollars spent on the front end of this agreement will be an investment in a brighter future for New Orleans.

For more from Walker and on consent decrees, click here.

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