Court denies city request to delay NOPD consent decree implementation

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U.S. District Court Judge today denied a request by the City of New Orleans to delay implementation of the New Orleans Police Department consent decree. The city last week asked the court to put off the effective date of the decree until Morgan was able to rule on its motion to vacate, or void, the agreement altogether.

The Landrieu Administration contends that implementing the agreement immediately would put a burden on the city's finances, especially while funding for the Orleans Parish Prison consent decree — which could cost tens of millions of dollars — remains a question. But in her ruling, Morgan dismissed the argument, invoking the idea at the heart of the consent decree as a reason not to delay.

"The City fails to demonstrate that it is at risk of suffering irreparable harm if implementation of the Consent Decree is not stayed. The City and NOPD must comply with the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States. To that end, the City has represented to the Court that it intends to move forward with reforming the NOPD so that it will be in compliance with all applicable laws," it reads. "Regardless of how such reform may be achieved,whether via collaboration between the United States and the City, or via another process, it will never be without cost."

A 2011 Department of Justice investigation into the NOPD provides evidence of unconstitutional policing, Morgan continues.

"...the United States and residents of New Orleans will suffer substantial harm to their interests in having a constitutional police force if the Court grants the City’s motion."

She further asserts that the city "has not made any showing whatsoever that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its Motion to Vacate."

The DOJ will not have to submit a response to the city's motion to void the agreement until Feb. 15. That is also the deadline for the formation of a city-federal evaluation committee that will select an applicant for the federal monitor contract, one of the larger consent decree costs with estimated value of $10 million over five years. Arguments for the motion to vacate are set for mid-March, just under a month before the current deadline — April 11, 90 days after the consent decree's effective date of Jan. 11 — to select the monitor.

Read the order: OrdertoStayDenied.pdf

Update (3:45 p.m.): I requested a response from Landrieu's office, along with a breakdown of major consent decree-related costs the city might face in the immediate future, earlier today. Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni responded with the following statement (after the jump).

"Our reason for requesting a stay was pretty simple—while the NOPD consent decree is being litigated, we have asked the Court not to force us to make any large expenditures related to the police consent decree because it is clear that both the prison and NOPD consent decrees cannot be paid for at this time without raising taxes or laying off or furloughing employees. It does not make sense to lay off or furlough police officers so the Sheriff can hire more prison guards and pay them higher salaries.

“The City will not encumber any large expenses while we continue to move forward with our motion to vacate the consent decree.

“Nonetheless, we are moving full speed ahead with reforming the New Orleans Police Department’s operations and practices. The DOJ itself has commended our reforms related to the K9 unit and homicide bureau, among others. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that 'meaningful progress has already been made… Mayor Landrieu and Chief Serpas did not wait for our findings to begin the reform process.' The Mayor has a strong track record for reform and just this week, we announced that the City has completely reformed practices at the Youth Study Center and has been released from a federal consent decree there. Mayor Landrieu remains completely committed to completely transforming the NOPD.”

Holder's statement here.

Press release on the Youth Study Center here. And our related story from earlier this week.

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