NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans police department has made significant progress in carrying out reforms mandated under an agreement with the federal government, according to a report released Friday.
The “Path to Reform” report says the city has achieved full compliance with parts of a 2012 agreement that the city reached with the Justice Department, but cautions that more work is needed. The report was filed in federal court for review by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan.
The report took note of successes by the department’s efforts to review its “use of force” policy. One of the more serious allegations against the department was the use by some officers of excessive, sometimes lethal force while making arrests and in other situations.
Jonathan Aronie, the lead monitor for a law firm appointed by the court in 2013 to make sure the city complied with the consent decree, praised New Orleans for creating a program to help officers and their families cope with the stresses of the job.
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“Stressed officers are more likely to use force,” Aronie said at a public hearing.
The report also noted shortcomings and said more effort was needed in areas including supervision, documentation of stops and searches, and community engagement. Additionally, the department is not attracting enough quality recruits, while vetting of the recruits it does sign up is “inconsistent.”
The report comes as Michael Harrison, who oversaw reforms as police superintendent since 2014, prepares to take over leadership of Baltimore’s police department.
Recurring scandals involving corruption or questionable use of force had plagued the New Orleans police department for decades and drew national attention in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when unarmed civilians were fatally shot.
A 2011 report by the Justice Department painted a picture of a department in which officers often used deadly force without justification, repeatedly made unconstitutional arrests, and engaged in racial profiling. Poor recruiting, ignorance or disregard of unclear policies, and inconsistent discipline all were cited as reasons for the dysfunction.
The agreement with the Justice Department was reached the following year and approved by the court in 2013.