By: Allen Johnson
The public may finally get a watchdog for the New Orleans Police Department six years after a task force appointed by outgoing Mayor Marc Morial formally pitched the idea to incoming reformers at City Hall. Councilman James Carter and city Inspector General Robert Cerasoli are jointly drafting an ordinance to place a NOPD Independent Monitor under Cerasolis fledgling agency. Duties of the IM will be spelled out in the proposed ordinance. The IGs $3.4 million annual budget allocates $250,000 toward hiring an independent monitor and two assistants. Well probably have to use more money out of my budget because $250,000 isnt enough, Cerasoli says. Civil rights attorney Mary Howell and other activists have called for an independent monitor to review police policies and practices since 1996. In 2001, Morial appointed a task force, led by then-Councilman Marlin Gusman, to explore the concept after a controversial police killing in Algiers. After months of study, the task force in 2002 supported the concept of an IM over a police-civilian review board. Despite strong public support, the proposal languished under Mayor Ray Nagin, then regained momentum under a new City Council in 2006.