Unprecedented: Feds take over New Orleans Police Department. Would the Founders Approve?

Taking aim at a long history of civil rights abuses, corruption and slipshod oversight within the New Orleans Police Department, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu unfurled a bevy of sweeping reforms Tuesday afternoon in the nation’s most expansive consent decree to date. The long-awaited agreement, to be overseen by an appointed monitor and U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, amounts to a 492-point, court-enforced action plan for overhauling NOPD policies and practices — from when officers can pull their weapons to the kind of data they track. The announcement at Gallier Hall on Tuesday afternoon featured Holder, Landrieu and other federal and city officials, including Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and City Attorney Richard Cortizas.

It came after several months of detailed and sometimes testy negotiations over hot-button topics such as off-duty police details and the sheer financing of the reforms, all of which will fall to the city.

Landrieu estimated that putting the consent decree in motion will set the city back $11 million a year to start. Holder said the government would offer support by way of available federal grants and advice, but the city is on the hook for the full tab.

Still, Landrieu exuded pride in what amounts to an unprecedented local-federal pact, even though the far-reaching document is a response to a yawning breadth of problems that he said have plagued the NOPD for years.

The consent decree follows what Holder called “one of the most extensive investigations of a law enforcement agency ever conducted by the (Justice) department.”

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Photo credit: Kyle Taylor