New Orleans Police Capt. Timothy Bayard, who led the rescue of thousands of citizens stranded during Hurricane Katrina, rose from a witness chair in the civil service hearing room and stretched his legs.
The former commander of the narcotics and vice division had just finished appealing a letter of reprimand, which he received after the ill-timed raid of a French Quarter massage parlor. More testimony was needed to conclude his case, so it was continued until this Tuesday (March 13).
Instead of leaving, however, Bayard raised his right hand. He was quickly sworn in as a witness in the next case -- the firing of a secretary in his old police unit. Carol Bradley, a civilian employee of the NOPD, was dismissed on charges she abandoned her job after Katrina.
Bayard, testifying as her former supervisor, said Bradley "did a great job," and he wanted her back in narcotics and vice. Bayard acknowledged listing her as an "essential" employee of his unit -- a designation the city used to fire her when she did not return to work in December 2005.
But three months after Katrina, cops in narcotics and vice were still searching for the dead -- 2,200 homes daily, from dawn to dusk, Bayard said. Bradley, who was temporarily housed with her young children in Shreveport, was not yet needed. "We were still recovering dead bodies; she was not essential to us," Bayard said. "She would have just been in the way."
Last week, Bradley was put on the city's rehiring list, part of a settlement with the city, her attorney said.
Bayard's own case may not be so amicably resolved.
Bayard and fired Capt. Harry Mendoza are waging bitter battles with Police Chief Warren Riley's administration in separate disciplinary appeals before the Civil Service Commission.
The battles rage over alleged violations of NOPD administrative rules. Lingering resentments within NOPD's top brass since the chaotic days of Hurricane Katrina fuel the bitterness, sources say.
Bayard is appealing a reprimand in connection with the prostitution arrests last year of two federal witnesses the day before they were to testify before a federal grand jury against two former NOPD cops accused of armed robbery. Bayard, who worked closely with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office on other major criminal probes, admitted to a "lapse in judgment," during testimony on Jan. 23 at his civil service trial.
He and his vice cops were exonerated by an FBI investigation.
But Riley gave Bayard a reprimand, removed him as commander of vice and narcotics, and reassigned him as a criminal investigator to the district attorney's office. Unlike reprimands, unwanted transfers cannot be appealed.
Meanwhile, Mendoza was demoted to lieutenant and fired last year for allegedly playing tennis on duty and otherwise failing to devote sufficient time to his police work. He denies any wrongdoing. Testimony in his case concluded Feb. 21. Transcripts will be forwarded to a three-judge panel of the commission for a decision.
A 30-year veteran of the NOPD and commander of the Traffic Division, Mendoza facilitated the successful "contraflow" evacuation of tens of thousands of New Orleanians as Katrina approached, according to the NOPD's own history (http://secure.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=50&tabid=9).
After the hurricane, a "unified command" of police and emergency responders was never established, according to testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs, which examined the response of local government to the storm.
Mendoza teamed with Bayard and SWAT team commander Capt. Jeff Winn outside Harrah's Casino downtown, Bayard told the Senate committee during his testimony on Jan. 30, 2006. On the trunk of a patrol car, the three captains planned and launched the NOPD's first organized rescue operations. "Absent instructions from superiors, we made decisions to save lives," Bayard told the Senate.
Bayard detailed the city's failure to prepare for and respond to the disaster, which Senate staffers corroborated with interviews and written testimony from other NOPD commanders, most notably Capt. Winn.
Then-Police Chief Eddie Compass resigned in the wake of the storm. Riley, NOPD's Assistant Superintendent and chief of operations before Katrina, also testified before the Senate. As the No. 2 cop, he said he was responsible for 70 percent of the city. But off-camera, in a Jan. 12, 2006, interview with Senate staffers, Riley blamed Deputy Chief Danny Lawless, NOPD's chief of policy, planning and training, for the department's lack of familiarity with hurricane emergency procedures. When Riley became superintendent, he demoted Lawless for his performance, Riley told Senate staffers.
After Bayard's blunt testimony in Washington, the commander's loyalists feared reprisals by the Riley Administration; supporters urged the captain to "watch his back," sources said.
The chief would later dismiss talk of punishment-driven transfers as conspiratorial, according to a Nov. 14 Times-Picayune story. But by then, Bayard had inadvertently assured himself a place in a civil service witness chair.
Bayard's case resumes next week, possibly with unprecedented testimony from a federal prosecutor and an FBI agent.
Bayard attorney Gary Pendergast says he plans to subpoena FBI agent Dan Evans and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McMahon to rebut February testimony by three mid-level NOPD commanders in the case.
Federal authorities do not typically testify at civil service hearings
"It's highly unusual," Anthony Radosti, vice president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, said of federal testimony in Bayard's appeal. "Plus, they have to have special permission from the local U.S. Attorney (Jim Letten) or the (U.S.) Justice Department, depending on the severity or importance of the case."
A letter of reprimand is the most minor disciplinary action that a city employee may appeal. But Bayard's attorney says he wants to clear his "exemplary" police record.
Meanwhile, Bayard's civil service testimony of Jan. 23 seems destined for police lore. Six months after his official reprimand, he broke a long public silence. Under questioning from a city prosecutor, the captain confirmed media reports in which he accepted responsibility for the ill-timed prostitution bust.
"Did you ever tell, or confess to any of your fellow officers that you had made a 'bone-head move?'" Deputy City Attorney Joe DiRosa asked, accusingly.
"Yeah," Bayard shrugged, nodding toward a copy of The Times-Picayune on the prosecutor's table. "That's in the paper -- right there."
The commander then offered a "time line" of events leading to Bayard's seat in the witness chair:
• On June 12, 2006, Bayard admitted, two NOPD deputy chiefs ordered him not to undertake any vice enforcement against the Bangkok Spa because of an ongoing federal criminal investigation. Also in June, Bayard said, he met with a City Council aide and "begged" for changes in ordinances to stop a proliferation of brothels that had sent seven cops to jail on corruption charges during his long tenure in vice.
• On July 1, Bayard said, NOPD officials ordered him to resume enforcement action in the French Quarter, following citizen complaints of an increase in prostitution.
• On July 10, Bayard testified, he arrived at the Police Integrity Bureau (PIB) in Mid-City for a meeting with federal prosecutor Michael McMahon, an FBI agent and three NOPD commanders. The three NOPD officers reportedly testified that McMahon instructed NOPD to stay away from the Bangkok Spa. Bayard testified he arrived at the meeting late and never heard such an order.
• On July 11, Bayard met with a lieutenant in his unit at the Sheraton Hotel, 500 Canal St., and authorized an undercover vice operation against Bangkok Spa, 509 Iberville St. Two spa employees were later arrested; they also were federal witnesses who were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury the next day against two former NOPD cops accused of armed robbery. Bayard said he then realized he had "messed up" and began contacting NOPD and federal officials.
• On July 12, Bayard advised local U.S. attorneys of the arrests of the two federal witnesses. Bayard said he was interviewed by an FBI agent and federal prosecutor McMahon. Bayard's bust made the evening news.
• On July 13, the federal witnesses met with the FBI, prosecutors and internal affairs agents from NOPD. An FBI investigation cleared Bayard and his vice officers of any wrongdoing. Bayard was reassigned pending further investigation by PIB.
DiRosa asked him why he did not check with NOPD superiors before approving the raid. "I didn't think it through," the captain replied. Bayard defended his officers' arrests: "The timing was bad, not the enforcement decision."
Bayard also alleges he was the target of "payback" from a cop he once booted out of his unit for allegedly stealing a Rolex watch. In a telephone call to an NOPD detective, the retiree recalled Bayard's disciplinary transfer and reportedly said, "Payback is today."
The precise basis for Bayard's reprimand remains murky.
Last Sept. 11, Bayard appeared before Deputy Chief James F. Scott, head of the intelligence division, for a disciplinary hearing, records show.
Scott recommended Bayard be reprimanded for violating NOPD's canons of professionalism, specifically for bringing "discredit" to himself and the department in connection with the Bangkok Spa raid. Riley concurred on Sept. 20, but noted mitigating factors: "[T]here was no indication that you or the members of the Vice Squad attempted to intimidate witnesses. There was also no indication that your authorization of this raid was done maliciously."
But, according to testimony by two NOPD captains and a lieutenant, Bayard also failed to heed federal prosecutor McMahon's instructions to stay away from the Bangkok Spa. Those alleged violations are not mentioned in Riley's disciplinary letter regarding Bayard.
Lt. John Thomas, the Public Integrity Bureau agent who investigated the Bayard case, said his recommendation for a reprimand of Bayard had nothing to do with the raid -- only the captain's "post-raid" comments to U.S. Attorney Letten and another PIB investigator, a lieutenant.
Specifically, Thomas said: "[Bayard] brought information to Jim Letten without first checking with the police department."
"Did you take into consideration the relationship between the appellant and the U.S. Attorney and the lieutenant?" Eric Hessler, an attorney for Bayard, asked.
"No," Thomas replied. "Just the rule of law."
Perplexed, lawyers for both sides called Riley to testify on Feb. 14. Riley acknowledged that his disciplinary letter to Bayard failed to mention the captain's alleged failure to follow instructions from an authoritative source, an NOPD rule. The chief said he had already issued Bayard's reprimand by the time two NOPD captains informed him of the July 10 meeting at PIB headquarters -- and the feds' alleged order to avoid the massage parlor, pending a federal grand jury hearing.
"Clear instructions were given to stay away from the Bangkok Spa," Riley says.
The chief later added, "The fact that the Bangkok Spa was raided by police ... it [the raid] certainly could have been looked at as being intentional, so it was a discredit, it was an embarrassment to the New Orleans Police Department."
But under questioning from Bayard attorney Gary Pendergast, the reasons for Bayard's reprimand clouded over again.
Advised of McMahon's recollection of the PIB meeting on July 10 in an internal investigation of Bayard, Riley then said the reprimand he issued "wasn't based on what McMahon said (to Bayard and NOPD officials)."
After Riley left, Pendergast frowned. He then announced he would call McMahon and the FBI agent to testify.
There is more at stake in the Bayard case than the careers and reputations of two heroes of Katrina. Testimony in both cases suggests a post-Katrina factionalism within NOPD -- amid fresh warnings that violent crime threatens New Orleans' recovery.
"The city continues to struggle with the pains of rebuilding, made that much more difficult by the increased threat of violent crime," The Brookings Institution, a national think tank, concluded in its end-of-January report. "Still, progress continues, and has even picked up in some areas of the recovery. Further progress in 2007 will require a strong and sustained response to the crime trend, and clear evidence of improvements in the criminal justice system. ..."
But the Bayard/Mendoza hearings depict an inwardly focused police department that has been struggling to right itself since Katrina. NOPD appears hampered by internal miscommunications and divided by tribal loyalties and personal rivalries, more so since Katrina.
Riley, whose understaffed force is still headquartered in FEMA trailers, seems intent on pursuing his vision of discipline and professionalism, which he has posted on NOPD's Web site. "Any officers who ... fail to uplift this great city and this police department should strongly consider looking for another career," Riley said at his swearing-in as chief on Nov. 29, 2005. "Disrespect, discourtesy and unprofessional behavior will not be tolerated. ... We will not only protect and serve, we will be ambassadors for this great city."
No doubt welcome in the wake of widespread reports of police looting and brutality after Katrina, Riley's words now pit the chief against two popular captains who commanded highly motivated and well functioning units, both before and after the storm. UNO criminologist Peter Scharf worries that the disciplinary cases will "alienate" seasoned commanders at a time when NOPD is losing an average of 17 cops a month, many of them veterans.
The hearings for Bayard and Mendoza have lacked the emotional fireworks of the "Danziger 7" case. Most of the passion in the Bayard/Mendoza hearings has been emoted by bickering lawyers. But there's still time for fireworks -- at least in the Bayard case.
After the Mendoza trial concluded on Ash Wednesday, hearing examiner Ginsberg told the solemn ex-cop that he would receive the commission's decision -- "by mail." Correction In "Parade Routes to Recovery" (Commentary, Feb. 27), we mistakenly stated that on Lundi Gras, the King of Zulu and the King of Argus toasted one another on the West Bank. That toast actually took place in Rivertown in Kenner. Gambit Weekly regrets the error.