ACLU says NOPD email shows evidence of arrest quotas

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 12 at 7:41 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana law strictly prohibits quotas for police officers. According to the statute, any measurement of officers’ performance based on the number of arrests they make is a violation.

That’s why a recent email message from NOPD Commander Robert Bardy, head of the Sixth District, has the ACLU up in arms.

In the message obtained by Eyewitness News, Bardy addressed an underling's request for mountain bike training for select officers in the second platoon as a reward for good work. The commander applauded the idea of the training, but wrote that he would like to see the platoon get “back to its former proactive posture of 40 arrests a week."

“I will not send anyone who does not support these goals,” Bardy wrote. “The second platoon is and has always been the one I count on. We (me, you and the 3 sgts) have to rekindle their drive and desire. This is something that is a priority for me.”

ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman said that type of message is wrong for many reasons.

“It’s very bad policing. It’s bad for law enforcement. It’s bad for the community and that’s why the state has outlawed it,” Esman said.

The state law against quotas prohibits a broad range of actions that could be interpreted as offering incentives to boost arrests.

According to the statute, no police agency “shall maintain, formally or informally, a plan to evaluate, promote, compensate or discipline a law enforcement officer on the basis of the officer making a predetermined or specified number” of arrests.

Esman said quotas give patrol officers the wrong motivation, redirecting efforts away from preventing crime before it happens.

"There's good reason for that law,” she said. “And the reason is that it sets up an incentive for police officers, potentially, to let a crime occur rather than prevent a crime in the first place."

The email comes at a time when the city is awaiting a federal judge’s approval of a consent decree requiring a host of reforms by the long-troubled NOPD, including proper arrest policies.

In a hard-hitting 2011 report, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Just Justice specifically addressed the issue.

“The Department’s organizational focus on arrests… encourages stops without reasonable suspicion, illegal pat downs, and arrests without probable cause,” the report states.

While Bardy’s informal message was not meant to stand as official policy, Esman said it is troubling in light of the federal scrutiny.

"What it means is that the problems are so ingrained that even with a pending consent decree, we're not there yet,” Esman said. “The culture of the police department still isn't where it needs to be."

In a written statement, police spokesperson Remi Braden not only defended Bardy’s email, she praised it as an example of leadership.

“This email clearly shows that Commander Bardy regularly monitors his officers’ performance, as all commanders should to make sure the people of New Orleans are getting the best service we can provide,” Braden wrote. ”The commander noticed a significant drop in officer activity, wanted to know what caused it, and said he’d work with supervisors to re-motivate the troops. This is leadership.”

 

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