Good morning and thank you for being with us today for this important announcement.
For the better part of the last year, the Civil Rights Division - under the leadership of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez - has conducted a thorough and independent investigation of the New Orleans Police Department. From the outset, the community, Mayor Landrieu and Superintendent Serpas welcomed our team, and enabled us to have the essential and frank discussions with a variety of stakeholders in order for us to get to the truth.
On behalf of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General, I want to thank all of those who spoke to us and met with our team for their candor and for their commitment to sustainable change for the City of New Orleans.
I also want to thank Mayor Landrieu and Superintendent Serpas for their cooperation throughout the Department’s investigation -- and their commitment to reforming the New Orleans Police Department.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t extend our gratitude to the United States Attorney Jim Letten, who, along with his staff, provided invaluable expertise and aid to the Civil Rights Division throughout the course of this important investigation.
From the beginning, this investigation has had a single mission – to see where the facts led us. Without a doubt, there are NOPD officers who come to work each and every day dedicated to the vital role that they play in protecting and serving the citizens of this wonderful City. NOPD officers have incredibly challenging jobs, and we respect all of the officers who do the right thing day in and day out.
Unfortunately, our conclusions reveal that many NOPD officers have failed to live up to what we rightfully expect from our law enforcement officers. The overwhelming and undeniable facts discovered throughout this investigation show reasonable cause to believe that the New Orleans Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct. Because of this, it has failed to provide the protection the people of New Orleans should expect from their police department. Our investigation revealed that poor policies, non-existent training and inadequate leadership have led to these systemic problems, which Tom Perez will address more specifically.
Our goal is not to criticize the police department’s operations and walk away. We are dedicated to making the New Orleans Police Department better. We are dedicated to working with the city and the police department to fix what’s broken for the people of New Orleans and for those officers of NOPD who serve ably and honorably.
Our Findings Report contains more than 15 pages of specific recommendations and throughout this process, the Civil Rights Division has provided the Superintendent with specific technical assistance. For example, even before our final report was issued, we recommended that NOPD suspend its Canine program because the Canines could not be controlled by the handlers, and the Superintendent suspended the program.
This report today marks a new beginning and the Justice Department is committed to providing our support to this police department and to this city. Already a number of Department components have worked with the NOPD and local municipal offices on a number of initiatives to help them better serve this community.
Just recently, the Department’s Office of Justice Programs gave the City a comprehensive evaluation of its Information Technology system, and provided the Superintendant with an assessment of its Homicide Unit. Our Office on Violence Against Women funded a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault First Responder Training that we hope will better prepare local officers in dealing with those devastating crimes. The Department’s recently-launched Access to Justice Initiative has also provided an Orleans parish Prison Jail-size Facilities Assessment, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has provided Integrated Ballistic Information System Training.
Today’s findings should serve as a foundation not only to rebuild the police department, but to help restore the community’s trust in fair, just and effective law enforcement. This police department and this city are ready to make the necessary changes and we look forward to continuing to work together toward making real, sustainable changes so that the NOPD can better serve the people of New Orleans.