July 24, 2014
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Feds Speak Out On New Orleans PD Report

 WASHINGTON - Last week, the Civil Rights Division released the findings of its comprehensive investigation of the New Orleans Police Department.  The findings revealed a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct or violations of federal law in several areas, including unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; use of excessive force; discriminatory policing; and others.

Notably, the investigation marked the first time that the Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a police department had engaged in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing.  Department investigators and attorneys found a systemic failure to investigate sexual assaults and domestic violence.  As the report’s executive summary noted, “[NOPD’s] culture tolerates and encourages…under-investigation of violence against women>”

The executive summary describes these findings further:

We find that NOPD has systematically misclassified large numbers of possible sexual assaults, resulting in a sweeping failure to properly investigate many potential cases of rape, attempted rape, and other sex crimes. Additionally, we find that in situations where the Department pursues sexual assault complaints, the investigations are seriously deficient, marked by poor victim interviewing skills, missing or inadequate documentation, and minimal efforts to contact witnesses or interrogate suspects. The documentation we reviewed was replete with stereotypical assumptions and judgments about sex crimes and victims of sex crimes, including misguided commentary about the victims’ perceived credibility, sexual history, or delay in contacting the police. NOPD has recently acknowledged its serious deficits in responding to sex crimes, and has taken some significant remedial steps. NOPD and the City will need to build on these efforts to bring about the extensive and sustained change necessary to effectively and appropriately respond to these serious violent crimes.

We also find systemic deficiencies in NOPD’s handling of domestic violence cases. In recent years, the New Orleans Family Justice Center (“NOFJC”), a federally funded center designed to provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence by integrating law enforcement, prosecution, civil legal services, and advocacy in one location, has had a salutary effect on NOPD’s handling of domestic violence complaints. Nonetheless, we find significant weaknesses in Department policies and practices in responding to these cases.

Selectively denying the critical protective services of a police department to certain groups, including women, is a violation of federal law, and will not be tolerated.  The Justice Department is now working with the city officials, NOPD and the New Orleans community at large to create a comprehensive blueprint for reform. The ultimate goal is an effective, accountable police department that reduces crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting.  This will include ensuring that women receive the protection they deserve from their police department.


STORY TAGS: NOPD , New Orleans Police Department , DOJ , Civil Rights Division , Justice Department , Black News, African American News, Minority News, Civil Rights News, Discrimination, Racism, Racial Equality, Bias, Equality, Afro American News



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