Mayor Mitch Landrieu offered this response to Clancy DuBos' Dec. 2 column, "How Mitch Landrieu Will Be Measured."
When I came into office, the U.S. Department of Justice had called the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) one of the worst departments in the country. A few bad apples, along with poor training and poor supervision, tainted the work of hundreds of tough, honest cops.
So we got to work. One of our first priorities was to reform the sex crimes unit, which was a failure. More than 800 rape kits sat on a shelf collecting dust. We took action and cleared that backlog, and as a result, we brought justice to 73 victims.
As part of the effort, we brought in new leadership and developed new policies. We sent a message to the department that our job was to assume that a victim of a sexual assault is telling the truth and to try to prove that a crime happened, not to try to disprove the victim, which was all too often the case.
As a result of our work, we saw the number of women seeking medical attention for sexual assaults remain flat, and at the same time we saw a big increase in the number of sexual assaults that were reported by the NOPD. This was a sign of progress — more women were coming forward and the NOPD was investigating more of these heinous crimes.
Notwithstanding all of the progress, we now know that we did not pull this problem out by the root. The accusations against the five detectives in the recent Inspector General report are a disgrace. It is unacceptable that special victims were failed by the system, and there will be consequences.
The Public Integrity Bureau is in the midst of a full review of the evidence involving all five detectives. This investigation will determine whether there were administrative violations that can result in termination, or if there was criminal misconduct that can result in criminal prosecution.
I appointed a special task force within the NOPD led by Cmdr. Paul Noel. The mission is clear: Bring justice to special victims.
First, the task force will reinvestigate each case that was touched by these five detectives so justice is done. This team will approach each case much like a cold case detective. They will review current evidence on file and gather any new evidence they can.
Second, the task force will recommend new personnel, policies and procedures within the sex crimes unit, so the NOPD is equipped to protect and serve the victims of these crimes. To get the job done, Noel will look for support and guidance from the strong advocates in this city who have made it their life's work to stop violence against women.
Moving forward, we are committed to changing the culture of the NOPD to prevent this from happening again — in the sex crimes unit and beyond. That's what the consent decree is all about. And that's why it is so important to have an Inspector General to independently investigate and verify that these changes take hold. At the same time, Police Chief Michael Harrison is focused on building robust accountability measures, so that we know who's doing what and when — from the lowest ranking officer up to the chief.
As we fix this serious problem, we should not lose site of the progress we have made.
During Police Chief Ronal Serpas' tenure, we beefed up the homicide unit and created a Multi-Agency Gang Unit. As a result, we brought down the number of murders to a historic, nearly 30-year low.
We got serious about putting the right people in jail and focused police arrests on violent offenders. Out of nothing, we created one of the best firearms testing labs in the country.
We strengthened the Public Integrity Bureau and embedded the FBI. As part of our commitment to build trust and confidence in the NOPD, we invested in body cameras for officers on the street.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we built new police stations and put hundreds of new police cars on the streets. We're rewarding hard-working officers with promotions, and a 5 percent pay raise for all officers.
Now we are hiring again. New officers will come into a strong police department. Today's officers will get more and better training and leadership at the top that is committed to getting it right.
The Inspector General's report was a reminder that change does not happen overnight. In fact, real and lasting reform requires vigilance every day.
We have a long way to go, but we have turned the New Orleans Police Department around and laid a strong foundation for the future.