NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Police Department has fired three officers for lying.
The terminations stem from two separate incidents. One of the cops involved, Eddie Polite, was already under scrutiny for a drunk-driving arrest this summer.
Polite, a 29-year NOPD veteran assigned to the Seventh District, was caught last April sleeping behind the wheel of his car while in uniform, according to a NOPD news release. Photos showed Polite was asleep while he was supposed to be working an off-duty, paid detail for an Uptown business, the NOPD said.
Later, Polite allegedly failed to tell internal investigators he was hired to work the detail. An administrative review determined that Polite lied and was unprofessional. Deputy Chief Darryl Albert fired him.
Polite's attorney, Raymond Burkart III, said the internal investigation was flawed. Burkart alleged the NOPD's own detectives failed to ask the right questions, thus resulting in what he called a skewed conclusion.
"We will be investigating the investigation," Burkart said.
Polite was placed on emergency suspension without pay months ago for a drunk-driving arrest in Harahan.
Police alleged that Polite drove the wrong way down a one-way street and didn’t have his headlights on. He was unable to complete a field sobriety test due to his intoxicated state, police said. Two other NOPD officers were fired for their roles in an unrelated matter.
Officers Kevin Wheeler and Juan Vera allegedly gave untruthful accounts of an October 2011 incident in which they deployed Tasers on a man. The officers responded to a report of a man with a machete and shocked him with their Tasers. They told investigators that the man posed a serious threat.
The NOPD said videotapes from the Tasers proved otherwise. The recordings showed the man was unarmed at the time and wasn’t a threat, according to the news release.
They were found to have lied, which is cause for termination under NOPD guidelines. Albert, the deputy chief, also found that the officers violated rules concerning use of force and reporting misconduct.
Burkart, who also represents Wheeler, said the officers did not use excessive force. He said it was at night, and very dark, when the cops encountered the machete-wielding civilian. The officers believed the man had the knife, and they were unable to see that another cop had already disarmed the man, Burkart said.
The recording device on the Taser has night vision, Burkart said, and the officers didn't.
He added that the officers had not intended to deceive the department.
Another officer, Larry King, was suspended for five days for his role in the incident. King was on the scene and failed to report his colleagues’ conduct, the NOPD said.
“Anyone who earns the privilege of wearing a law enforcement uniform immediately takes on the responsibility of keeping order in society,” Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a released statement. “If officers are not honest and transparent about their actions, they don’t deserve the respect and cooperation of the people they serve.”
“In the Wheeler and Vera case, I am very satisfied that our internal control systems determined that the information provided in the police report did not match evidence available,” Serpas added. He also noted that the NOPD has an investigation into those officers’ field supervisors.
Vera's attorney, Donovan Livaccari, expressed disappointment in the firings.
"These were dedicated, hard working policemen who have received numerous commendations. And it will be a great loss tot he community and the department," Livaccari said.