Change is on its way to the NOPD, or at the very least a new 15-page memorandum is. The Times-Picayune reports that the New Orleans Police Department’s superintendent Ronal Serpas released a new 65-point document yesterday to reform the agency. Serpas called it a “no-nonsense” plan.
The document opens with ten guiding principles written in exuberant language. Of particular note, the department has committed itself to respecting “the spectacular diversity” of New Orleans and NOPD employees and “producing the highest quality investigations” to serve the community.
Many of the changes are structural reforms that include instituting weekly accountability meetings; decentralizing certain departments; sending folks for training and certification and making sure the crime lab is an accredited unit. The real updates come around page 10, in the “Integrity - Accountability” section. Under the new policies, falsifying police reports, failing to report misconduct and lying to investigators will be grounds for automatic, “presumptive termination, without progressive discipline.”
These are all actions which would have curtailed the multi-year cover-ups that led to the Department of Justice investigations into the NOPD. The DOJ has eight separate investigations into the NOPD which have resulted in criminal charges against sixteen cops this year for the Danziger Bridge incident and the murder of Henry Glover.
New Orleans police can also expect to receive regular “integrity” checks, which Serpas writes will “ensure the community can expect and receive the highest quality of service and professionalism from NOPD employees.” Who knows how to operationalize a human value like integrity, but it’s up to the NOPD to follow through with what it puts on paper.
In the wake of the Oscar Grant murder trial this summer, when ex-transit cop Johannes Mehserle was tried for murder for shooting an unarmed Grant in the back on a train platform, many cop accountability experts I spoke to said that accountability mechanisms and structural reforms were all well and good, but that a department’s preventative measures were only as strong as the command leadership that stood behind them.
The Department of Justice is also investigating the NOPD for civil rights violations in its “patterns and practices” and is expected to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government as the disgraced police department moves to regain a bit of long-abandoned accountability and public trust. Serpas noted that a good portion of the reforms he laid out yesterday have already been completed or are being instituted right now.
Check out the plan in full, posted by the Times-Picayune here.