Consent decree decision in hands of judge

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 20, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 20 at 6:41 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- The decision of whether or not four groups will be able to intervene in the NOPD consent decree is now in the hands of a federal judge.

A hearing wrapped up late Monday with attorneys for the four groups, facing off with lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the city.

The four interveners seeking a say in the consent decree include a community group, the New Orleans independent police monitor and two police officer organizations, including the Police Association Of New Orleans and the Fraternal Order of Police.

“I think the fact is that this thing can’t work properly. It does get extended. You do have problems if you don’t allow the men and women to proceed in the case with the city, with the (U.S. Justice Department) in such a manner that it’s productive,” said Raymond Burkart III of the Fraternal Order of Police.

At issue is whether any of the groups should become a party to the consent decree that was negotiated between the city and the U.S. Justice Department.

An attorney for the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division, Christy Lopez, argued that the police organizations want to intervene because “essentially, what they want to do is turn the consent decree into a collective bargaining agreement.”

She also argued the consent decree doesn’t prevent the independent police monitor from meeting with the community to hear their concerns.

But the group Community United for Change wants more.

“This consent decree is not nearly tough enough,” said Bill Quigley, attorney for the Community United for Change. “There has to be a lot more to try and change the police department in the city of New Orleans. It is not just a few bad apples. It is a rotten orchard.”

But an attorney for the city of New Orleans says allowing the interveners in will slow down the consent decree process.

“The city acknowledges there should be reform. The issue is the timeliness and efficiency of that reform,” said Sharonda Williams, chief deputy city attorney.

But Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson said the consent decree undercuts her office’s role.

“We’re seeking to have a voice in this consent decree. We don’t feel like our voice was heard.”

U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan did not rule in this case Monday, but said she would before a fairness hearing that’s set for Aug. 29.

 

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