For the second time in two weeks, the New Orleans Police Department’s new system for off-duty details is facing a legal challenge from rank-and-file officers.
In a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Fraternal Order of Police is challenging the city’s detail system as unconstitutional because the ordinances that established the Office of Police Secondary Employment were not approved by the Civil Service Commission.
The lawsuit is similar to a petition filed a week earlier by the Police Association of New Orleans. PANO filed its complaint directly to the Civil Service Commission to halt the new system. The vast majority of NOPD officers are members of at least one of the two police associations.
The city created the OPSE in May 2012 as a response to a scathing Justice Department report describing the decades-old detail policy an “aorta of corruption,” a system ripe for abuse and favoritism.
The city office, now staffed with five employees, has been slow to get off the ground due to administrative and logistical delays. Despite spending more than $300,000 since the office was created, OPSE didn’t start coordinating details until last month, and only a handful of been taken over so far by the office.
City spokesman Tyler Gamble said multiple delays by the City Council in passing necessary ordinances forced the city to delay more aggressive plans to take over large details at city schools and major sporting events such as Saints games.
Under the old detail policy, which is still largely in place, individual officers broker their own off-duty jobs, with some coordinating dozens of other officers on the moonlighting gigs.
Similar to the earlier PANO challenge, the FOP claims the new system is unconstitutional because the city bypassed the Civil Service Commission in setting up pay and policy for details under OPSE.
“The resulting city ordinances were and are unconstitutional, are unenforceable, and are absolutely null,” states the petition filed by FOP attorneys Raymond Burkart III and Donavon Livaccari.
In its petition, the FOP seeks a preliminary injunction to halt the new system immediately pending a trial on the merits.
The city responded to the legal action by accusing the police groups of stall tactics and urging them to drop their lawsuits.
“The Office of Police Secondary Employment is moving forward to implement the reforms of the detail system required by federal consent decree," said Deputy Mayor and CAO Andy Kopplin. "The police unions’ continued actions to stall these efforts hurts the rank-and-file police officers and interferes with the officers’ ability to make secondary income."
"We are calling on PANO and FOP to join the City in ensuring that OPSE is successful as our officers depend on the extra income being threatened by these unnecessary challenges.”