Inspector general critical of NOPD's 'stop and question' methods

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 12, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 12 at 10:38 PM

Brendan McCarthy / Eyewitness News
Email: bmccarthy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @bmccarthyWWL

NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Office of Inspector General says it can’t tell whether police are racially profiling, or improperly stopping people. That’s because the New Orleans Police Department’s own data collection and record keeping system is flawed.

The inspector general’s report was released Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the city’s police monitor was to issue its own report.

For about two years, Police Monitor Susan Hutson has tried to examine the NOPD’s controversial method of stopping and frisking citizens, and later collecting their personal information – such as tattoos, nicknames or Social Security numbers – on a “field interview card.”

That info is later put into a electronic police database. More than 70,000 people were entered into the system in a recent 12-month period.

The Office of Inspector General tried to analyze the statistics and ultimately determined the NOPD needs to chage how it collects data. Meanwhile, Hutson said her office found issues with the NOPD’s policy and practices regarding field interview cards.

"They were inconsistent with state law and constitutional law,” she said today. “They were missing some elements."

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has called field interview cards an important crime-fighting tool. His agency has used the card as a measurement for officer activity.

Some NOPD supervisors have pushed officers to fill out the cards after any traffic accident or stop – an apparent violation of NOPD policy.

Civil rights groups and the Department of Justice have questioned whether the NOPD's rampant use of the cards violates citizen privacy, and perhaps the law.

Hutson said the NOPD needs to change its policies, improve training and more. She said she has received numerous complaints from citizens, alleging police were stopping them without reason or probable cause.

In order to stop someone, officers must be able to articulate why they believe that person committed a crime, or was about to.

Last July, following criticism of the field interview card practice, Serpas said the NOPD’s policy was under review.

His office released the following statement Tuesday evening:

“We agree with the inspector general that there is more work needed to further the progress that has already been made in updating the FIC system. Progress with this initiative slowed because of a lack of funding and additional technical support became unavailable. As the OIG and NOPD worked together on this audit, much common ground was found to create the best system possible. We remain committed to that partnership.”

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