The New Orleans Police Department took swift action to fire two rookie officers after they allegedly beat a man early Tuesday in Mid-City.
And while there are many who applauded the fast action, some wonder if the men should’ve even been on the force.
City Council President Jason Williams said he has concerns about the background checks for Spencer Sutton and John Galman.
Williams, who heads up the council’s Criminal Justice Committee, said Friday he wants to investigate when their journey to join the NOPD began to determine if enough was done to look at their background before they got a badge.
“I think it’s something the public is probably going to want to hear to make sure we’re not missing anything in our recruiting and in our background search,” Williams said.
Thanks to the NOPD consent decree, it’s probably never been more difficult to join the force. Still, the department has had some criticism from the consent decree monitor.
Rafael Goyeneche, who heads up the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said it’s important for any police agency to keep a close eye on who it hires.
“Unlike in the private sector, a police officer that becomes a hiring mistake is going to manifest itself in the headlines adversely,” he said.
And that happened Tuesday after Galman and Sutton, who graduated the NOPD academy in December 2017, allegedly got into an argument with George Gomez at the Mid-City Yacht Club.
The men reportedly asked him if he was an American since he speaks with an accent and questioned his military service, something WWL-TV has independently verified.
That argument ended with Gomez’s face beaten and bruised.
Ronal Serpas was the NOPD’s chief when the consent decree began. He said that by all accounts, the department has worked to improve its hiring practices, something the consent decree monitors noted in a report in April.
Donovan Livaccari, who represents the local Fraternal Order of Police, said that even the most stringent system can’t predict bad behavior when police are off duty, as Galman and Sutton were when the attack happened.
He also questioned if their jobs as police officers were relevant since the men did not bring up their profession when talking to Gomez, something he confirmed.
Williams, however, argued that officers are held to a higher standard whether they are on the clock or not.
“It is absolutely germane to their fitness to serve,” he said. “They carry a gun, they have the power to arrest, and they beat the hell out of a private citizen for racist reasons.”
Danny Monteverde can be reached at email@example.com.