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Investigators grill NOPD Officer in leaked audio

Leaders and experts weigh in on the leak involving an NOPD officer who worked on the Mayor's security detail.

NEW ORLEANS — We're now hearing tape recordings of New Orleans Police Officer Jeffrey Vappie being questioned by an NOPD investigator.

Vappie was transferred out of the Mayor's executive protection details amid questions about his hours and activities, specifically whether he overbilled the city or collected overtime he didn't earn.

The recording, a part of an internal police investigation, began circulating this week.

Internal investigations are supposed to be secret and the recordings falling into public hands is now generating a whole new set of troubling questions.

The Office of Independent Police Monitor called the leak a "security breach" and notified the Department of Justice, City Council and federal consent decree monitors.

The files, contained on a thumb drive, included hours of interviews conducted by the public integrity bureau.

The questions posed to Vappie include a range of topics, including the controversial first-class flights by the Mayor, as well as Vappie. The Mayor has since had to pay for the flight upgrades to avoid violating city policy.

Investigator: “You would ride coach. But if you didn't ride coach, you would ride in first class?”

Vappie: “Everyone in first class, right.”

Investigator: “How was that accommodated? What happened with that?”

Vappie: “I have no idea.”

The questions for Vappie also revolve around time spent with the Mayor outside of his normal security duties.

Vappie: “She wanted to walk and jog. So I did. It started out her walking after hours, at night, but then it happened in the morning. She suggested to walk in the morning. On the riverfront.”

Investigator: “So at night, after you actually ended your shift?”

Vappie: “Yes.”

Investigator: “Would that be a part of your protection duty or part of your walking duty?

Vappie: “That’s outside the scope. That was just a request by the boss.”

In a joint statement from PIB and the City Attorney’s Office, the city explained that the files were "inadvertently released by the law department to a HANO board member."

Meanwhile city council president J.P. Morrell wrote that the investigation is now compromised and is calling for a third party to step in and take over.

Councilmembers say they initially asked for an independent party to handle the investigation, but they say their requests fell on deaf ears. 

“Unfortunately what happened with this leak… is validating that somebody else should be looking into it," Councilman Joe Giarrusso told Eyewitness News. “I think there is going to be a call for making sure everything is done correctly. To me, part of this is making sure Officer Vappie gets a fair investigation and there isn’t a rush to judgment about it but at the same time, how did we reach this circumstance?”

He says if the investigation is supposed to be confidential, efforts should be made to protect the information.

“This was supposed to be warehoused in the public integrity bureau, it somehow wound up with the City Attorney’s Office. The City Attorney’s Office made a mistake and now it's in the press's hands. The fewer people who are in on these types of things and given the nature of this one in particular the better it is to keep it in a very small portion.”

Eyewitness News Political Analyst, Clancy DuBos said the leak greatly compromises the entire investigation.

“The Public Integrity Bureau of NOPD does not report to the City Attorney. But the City Attorney, like the NOPD Chief, reports to the mayor," DuBos said. "This is why any investigation particularly a sensitive matter that relates to the Mayor of the city has to be done not only with the utmost care but by an independent third party.”

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