FOP warns police officers against Jazz Fest boycott



Update (Tues., April 9, 10:30 a.m.): The hearing on proposed NOPD detail ordinances was removed from the City Council committee agenda at the beginning of this morning's meeting. New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head said the Council will discuss the bills next week.

Walter Powers, president of New Orleans largest police officers' association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), has written an open letter to New Orleans Police Department officers, saying that recent talk of boycotting security details during Jazz Fest — in protest of the city's proposed overhaul of the police detail system — is "premature," calling the move a "nuclear option."

"If police officers boycott the Jazz Fest, the organizers simply will hire deputies or security guards and NOPD will supplement coverage with officers on city rolls. A boycott may send a message, but what will we accomplish?"

He goes on to compare a boycott to North Korea's threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States:

"They engaged in no diplomacy and have no boots on the ground. What have they accomplished? The United States is not concerned. Other countries with embassies in North Korea aren’t even evacuating. The world is simply looking and wondering why they would do something so stupid. Unless you are Kim Jung Un the nuclear option is rarely the best option."

“FOP is ready to explore and to execute any and all legal options that are available to our members," but it's too early to talk about boycotting security details, says FOP attorney Ray Burkart in a phone interview.

Burkart says talk of boycotting the festival came up during a recent meeting held by another officers' association, the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO). PANO attorney Eric Hessler acknowledges that a discussion (but not a policy vote) took place, adding that it was an open meeting for that any NOPD officer could attend.

“There was discussion of various responses of what to do regarding these proposed detail reforms," he says. “There was certainly discussion of that — Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest. I think that consideration shows a level of frustration with the detail system that’s being proposed.”

Both PANO and FOP have come out against the new Office of Police Secondary Employment, which moves off-duty detail coordination to an office within City Hall overseen by retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Salomone, who will work under Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

(More after the jump)

"The new plan represents the start of a centralized system that has strong oversight yet still serves customers effectively," reads a March 7 statement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “All officers who would like extra work to earn some extra money for their families will have an equal chance at getting those opportunities once the new detail system is in place,” said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. “We're striving for a transparent and fair system.”

An ordinance before the New Orleans City Council would fund the office with $5 hourly fees tacked on to uniform detail pay. Read it: 29470_FINAL.pdf

Another ordinance would create the Police Secondary Employment Fund, which would collect and distribute detail pay. The Council is set to discuss the bills in a joint meeting of the Economic Development and Budget Committees.

(Times-Picayune: NOPD detail system reform to debut 2 years after unveiling)

Powers asks officers to fight the ordinances by showing their opposition to City Council members.

"In order to facilitate the new paid detail plan, it will be necessary for the Office of Police Secondary Employment to convince our City Council to pass two ordinances. The OPSE will not be able to function at all without these ordinances. That is a point of weakness that presents us with an opportunity," reads Powers' letter.

The overhaul of the detail system — referred to as the "aorta of corruption" within the department in a Department of Justice investigation — is required by the recently approved NOPD federal consent decree. The FOP unsuccessfully sued to intervene as a named party to the decree and is now appealing the federal judge's denial. The city, meanwhile, is appealing the entire consent decree.

Burkart points out in interview that the intense federal focus — and indeed the "aorta" line — on the detail system came from disgraced former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone. And he says the FOP still believes the detail system may violate federal labor laws, in spite of a February letter from the Department of Labor indicating otherwise. Burkart says the letter cites no case law. It simply amounts to "we're the government and we say so," he adds.

“They are shafting the officers and trying to make a dollar off them," Burkart says. “The detail system isn’t corrupt. The city just wants a cut.” Hessler likewise claims the city has failed to make its case and calls the new system a "money grab."

The proposed ordinance, it should be noted, says fees collected for the Secondary Employment fund can only be used to pay for the Secondary Employment office. But Hessler says he doesn't trust the city to live up to that.

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