New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) called for an early termination of the city’s federal police consent decree, which was enacted nearly a decade ago to safeguard civil rights.
Cantrell said at a news conference that low morale in the force is causing the staffing problems, linking the issue to what she described as a negative national narrative about the police and the federal oversight agreement that went into effect in 2013.
“The consent decree handcuffs our officers by making their jobs more difficult, harassing them with punitive sentences and burying them with paperwork that is an overload,” Cantrell said. “It is too much.”
The police and the Department of Justice (DOJ) signed the consent decree in January 2013 after a DOJ investigation into the alleged pattern of civil rights violations by the police.
Cantrell said she sent a formal notice to the DOJ in 2020 before the city wanted to end the consent decree. The decree provides that the city can initiate the termination process through the notice of termination if it believes that it has been fully and effectively complied with for at least two years, and the case would eventually go to court.
“It seemed like the goalposts would move every time our officers showed real results,” she said. “That it would move every time, keep us in this consent decree, and I’ve been challenging that from day one.”
Cantrell also indicated that the city attorney’s office will move forward with the process in the next two weeks, including paperwork formally requesting the DOJ to release the department from the agreement.
To further boost staff morale, Cantrell and Shaun Ferguson, the city’s police chief, announced they were changing policies to allow facial hair and fingernail polish, and recently purchased 75 new Ford Explorers as part of improvements. the equipment.
“We have a world-class police department and it is imperative that we ensure that every officer feels safe in their work and is respected on their patrols,” Cantrell said in a statement.
“Nothing is off limits and everything is considered: equipment, vehicles, facilities, operations – everything,” she said. I have listened to the needs of our officers and my government intends to meet them.”
New Orleans is one of several jurisdictions with consent decrees currently in effect.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo in 2018 curtailing the use of the agreements as one of his last acts as the country’s top law enforcement officer, arguing that they have unfairly hampered police departments by civil rights lawyers.
Attorney General Merrick Garland revoked the memo last year, and in April the DOJ announced its first consent decree with a local police department since Garland’s action.