Today (9/30/16), Jarvis DeBerry published his opinion on the recent interest in the NOPD’s investigation into the sex crimes unit and several officers that resulted from a report by the Office of Inspector General. Mr. Debeery’s opinion is not that of a reporter — someone interested in ascertaining the facts of a situation. Mr. Debeery’s opinion is exactly that — an opinion — based on fallacies and prejudice.
Let’s start with what is true (partly). Mr. Debeery charges that my statements about this investigation prove “the unions (the FOP) reflexively defend their members, no matter the details of criticism.” I am an attorney. Several of the officers investigated by the NOPD in this matter are my clients. The relationship is attorney (me) – client (officer). The FOP is not a party to that relationship. A lawyer should act with “commitment and dedication to the interests of the client and with zeal in advocacy on the client’s behalf.” I have a responsibility to defend my clients. That is what I was hired to do. While it is true that the Fraternal Order of Police in New Orleans does not hesitate defend its members when it is called for, that simply does not fit into the equation in these circumstances.
Mr. Debeery seems to find it incredulous that I indicated that I did not know what the officers were accused of. He says “But there’s no excuse for Livvacari not knowing what the accusations are.” He then refers to the November, 2014 report by the Office of the Inspector General making which made their “transgressions” “quite plain.”
Mr. Debeery states that the Inspector General “didn’t treat it’s investigation in to the sex-crimes unit like the typical report that accuses an agency of being wasteful with its resources.” I agree with that statement and maybe this investigation is an indication that the Inspector General should stick with what he knows.
The first thing cited by Mr. Debeery from the Inspector General’s report is that 1,290 sexual assault and child abuse cases had been assigned to five detectives and 86% of those had not been followed up on with an investigative report. He goes on to say that 2/3 of those cases (840) were labeled as miscellaneous incidents. On its face, this appears to be problematic for those five officers. However, it was not long before the NOPD determined, and announced publicly, that 677 of those 840 cases were sex offender registry checks. That is, sex crimes detectives were responsible for verifying that the information provided by sex offenders following their convictions was correct. Those 677 cases were properly classified as miscellaneous incidents. The NOPD has since created a new category for sex offender registry checks, but they are still not sex crimes investigations requiring follow-up. The report, along with Mr. Debeery, also ignores the system of 21-x and 21-y signals designed by the police administration in an attempt to pigeon hole cases which required more information before they could be properly classified. The report also relies on the lack of supplemental reports by officers on investigations as an indication that detectives were being lackadaisical. This demonstrates a lack of knowledge of police procedure on both Mr. Debeery’s part and the Inspector General’s part. The investigation into this matter also revealed that some of the case identified by the Inspector General’s report had already reached their conclusion in the criminal justice system — the cases had already been prosecuted and had come to their conclusion. This would not be possible if they had been ignored as the Inspector General’s report had declared. There were likely some cases which did not get the attention they deserved. But, supplemental police reports are only required when evidence was logged in or an arrest was made. Otherwise, updates were logged in the case management system (CMS). This is an overly simplistic explanation, but the short version is that manpower, not indifference, was responsible for cases which were not followed up on as thoroughly as the detectives would have liked.
Debeery then goes on to recount the Inspector General’s allegation that a child younger than 3 appeared at a hospital with a sexually transmitted diseased and that Akron Davis ignored this. The lack of follow-up by Debeery, or possibly his inattention to information learned at a later time, much like the OIG’s inattention to detail, leads to reckless allegations such as this which are damaging to Detective Davis’s reputation. First of all, this case was not assigned to Detective Davis. Secondly, and much more importantly, the NOPD had already investigated this case and was well-aware of how this child had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. There is a case file several inches thick on this particular child. So, the NOPD already knew the source of the sexually transmitted disease. How much time should Detective Davis have spent determining the source of the sexually transmitted disease when there were so many other victims the understaffed unit had to try to help? He then points to two other cases which Detective Davis would not have enough information to defend, explain or take responsibility for.
The next case cited Mr. Debeery is when Sgt. Merrell Merricks allegedly backdated an investigative report requested by the Inspector General. This clearly shows a lack of understanding of police procedure. In any event, those charges were not substantiated against Sgt. Merricks. I do not represent Sgt. Merricks. The same is true of the allegations about Detective Williams and his report writing. Finally, Mr. Debeery cites a statement allegedly made by Detective Damita Williams regarding the applicability of a simple rape charges. There is no context to this statement. Did you know there are circumstances when simple rape is not an applicable charge? For example, a husband cannot be accuse of simple rape of his wife. Context is important.
Mr. Debeery winds up with his opinion that this should have been enough information for me and the public. Unfortunately, I know more about this investigation than the public. I certainly know more about this investigation than Mr. Debeery.
The Louisiana Constitution, something I would think Mr. Debeery would favor being applied to everyone as it was intended, establishes due process for civil service employees. The process that is due requires that civil servants be apprised of the exact violations leading to disciplinary action. The obviously flawed report by the Inspector General is insufficient to satisfy that requirement. I should know the details of the circumstances leading to the discipline of my client. That is the law.
We agree on one thing: there has been a significant change in the operation of that unit (except that the detectives are still under water with an exorbitant case load). This is a good thing. This is also the only thing that really addresses the problems, in general terms, that existed in the structure of the sex crimes unit. Disciplinary actions taken against good officers are not what led to this improvement.