Thank you, Attorney General Holder. Today is an important day for the remarkable people of New Orleans, and the dedicated men and women of the NOPD. This landmark consent decree is the most comprehensive agreements the Civil Rights Division has ever entered into with a police department, and it will serve as a blue print for reform for departments across the country.
Roughly two years ago, we stood together with Mayor Landrieu and others to announce that we had accepted your invitation to begin the reform process by conducting a thorough, independent review of the New Orleans Police Department. Your goal was to “complete transformations” of NOPD. We share that goal. In the ensuing year, we did just that, and we peeled the onion to its core so we had a precise understanding of the nature and extent of the challenges confronting NOPD. Throughout that process, we received complete cooperation from the Mayor, the Department, including the police union, and the community. Everybody’s input was critical. Last year’s report was a comprehensive diagnosis of the serious challenges confronting NOPD.
We immediately shifted our focus to the development of a consent decree that would serve as our specific roadmap for reform and the accountability document that would guide our actions moving forward. Today, we have reached the end of one phase of the reform effort, and the beginning of another. This consent decree is constructed around three basic goals: (1) reducing crime; (2) ensuring respect for the Constitution, and (3) enhancing public confidence in the New Orleans Police Department.
This consent decree touches virtually every aspect of effective, constitutional policing. There are provisions requiring the Department to take actions in the areas of recruitment; training; policy development; use of force; stops, searches and arrests; effective supervision; bias free policing; access to effective police services for people with limited English skills; data collection and integrity; officer assistance; effective investigation of crimes involving violence against women; evaluation and promotion of officers; effective internal systems to investigate officer misconduct; and secondary employment.
There is significant emphasis on transparency, community engagement and sustainability. The decree places tools in the hands of the entire community so that long after the agreement has ended, effective, constitutional policing will endure. There are creative approaches to assessing compliance that focus on meaningful outcomes and encourage innovation.
In short, the decree builds off of last year’s exhaustive letter of findings and constructs a comprehensive accountability roadmap for reform. The Department and the City have also agreed to an open, competitive process for the selection of an independent monitor, who will play a key role in ensuring the effective implementation of the reforms. Our decree calls for the selection of the monitor by October. In the meantime, reform efforts continue. Chief Serpas has not waited a moment to begin the reform effort, and we will continue to assist him and the men and women of NOPD. We appreciate your dedicated service. All NOPD officers should know that our goal is to provide you the necessary tools to succeed.
This case will now be assigned to Judge Susie Morgan, who will review and hopefully approve this decree. We will continue reaching out to and learning from police officers, command staff, and community members alike. This is your document; it reflects your ideas, values and aspirations for NOPD.
In the years since Hurricane Katrina devastated this great city, New Orleans has undergone a rebirth. Much of the focus has necessarily been, and continues to be, on bricks and mortar reconstruction – literally putting this city back together, rebuilding its infrastructure and its communities. Today is about rebuilding a core part of the fundamental infrastructure of democracy – an effective, accountable police department that reduces crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.
We recognize that while considerable progress has been made, considerable work lies ahead. The challenges confronting NOPD were many years in the making. Culture change requires time, persistence, partnership, sustained community engagement a sound plan and effective leadership. All of those ingredients are in place in New Orleans. We will remain actively involved for as long as necessary to assist in bringing about sustainable reform – and not a day longer.