Uniting police and public in very dis-united urban areas is a major part of my safety advocacy. A brief glimpse over the hotly debated cause of rioting after officers shoot Black male subjects is the latest reason why I work to unite brothers who sow safety with counterparts wearing badges.
The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police represents 1,009 active New Orleans Police Department Officers, or about 90% of all current police officers in New Orleans. There are 1,022 other members of the Crescent City Lodge, including 863 retirees, 43 NOPD Reserve Officers, 12 terminated NOPD Officers, 89 other active law enforcement officers, 4 associate members, and 11 honorary members. The Crescent City Lodge offers unmatched legal representation and offers services and benefits to members that are unrivaled. It is impossible for me to keep everyone up to date on everything the FOP is working on on behalf of our members. Here are a few highlights:
- The FOP employs a lobbyist, Joe Mapes of Mapes & Mapes, to represent our interests in Baton Rouge during the legislative session. Since this current legislative session has been in session, there have been a number of bills introduced which are adverse to law enforcement officers. We have participated in numerous discussion, telephone conferences, meetings, etc. to either eliminate these bills or minimize their impact on FOP members. We have been working closely with the Louisiana FOP and other law enforcement groups from around the state to try to get the best outcome for law enforcement officers. In particular, a recent article in one of the law enforcement blogs, the headline read that the legislature had stripped officers of due process rights. The headline is misleading, but it is misleading because the FOP fought to ensure the due process rights of law enforcement officers were protected. You may receive emails from the Louisiana FOP asking you to participate in Voter Voice. This system allows you to send emails to your elected officials on our legislative priorities.
- The FOP is representing several officers in civil suits resulting from accidents in police cars. In addition to providing legal representation through the FOP Legal Plan, the FOP is working with the administration to change the City’s policies as they relate to take-home cars.
- The FOP paid for the families of Officers Jude Lewis and Natasha Hunter, both killed in the line of duty, and two escort officers, to attend the National FOP Police Week functions where their names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
There seems to be an increase in the NOPD’s use of negotiated settlements. From the Department’s perspective, the use of negotiated settlements gives the Department a way to deal with disciplinary investigations and their impact on manpower. The Department’s interpretation of the consent decree has created a disciplinary system which strains our already strained manpower. Negotiated Settlements allow the Department to dispose of complaints by taking action in a way that doesn’t result in hours upon hours of work by multiple employees. Click here to view the regulation on Negotiated Settlements.
How does it work?
When complaints are received by PIB, they are analyzed for classification. Criminal allegations are sent to the criminal section, some are sent to the Independent Police Monitor for mediation, and some are deemed appropriate for Negotiated Settlement. These are minor infractions that seem fairly straightforward. Once a case is deemed appropriate for Negotiated Settlement, PIB sends a packet to the officer’s commander. Once the commander receives the packet, a Presentation Meeting is scheduled. This could be the first time the officer becomes aware of the pending complaint.
At the Presentation Meeting, the commander will provide the officer with the information regarding the complaint. This should include details of the allegations, including the particular infraction(s) and the evidence, and where the violation falls on the penalty matrix should the allegation be sustained and what the penalty will be if the officer accepts the Negotiated Settlement.
At the conclusion of the Presentation Meeting, the officer has three choices. The officer can 1) accept the offered settlement and penalty; 2) request a reflection period; or 3) reject the offered settlement.
If the officer accepts the offered settlement and penalty, then that is the end of the line. The complaint is not sent out for investigation and the settlement documents are sent up the chain of command for the necessary approvals.
If the officer requests a reflection period, then the officer gets 5 days to think about whether or not to accept the settlement and penalty. At the conclusion of the 5 days, the commander and the officer have a settlement meeting where the officer informs the commander of his decision. If the officer chooses to accept the settlement, then that is the end of the line and the paperwork is sent up the chain of command. If the officer rejects the settlement, then it is sent out for investigation. The decision to accept or reject the settlement offer can be made prior to the end of the 5 days. If no decision is made within 5 days, it is sent out for investigation.
What are the considerations?
First of all, I recommend you contact your FOP attorney regarding any Negotiated Settlement. Your FOP attorney is in a position to discuss whether or not the Negotiated Settlement is a good idea. The rules and regulations, including the disciplinary regulations, are not necessarily something officers study on a regular basis. Consulting with your FOP attorney will increase your chances of making the best possible decision. Also, bringing your FOP attorney into the situation will make you eligible for the FOP’s salary reimbursement option should you end up with a suspension.
The primary reasons for accepting a Negotiated Settlement should be that the officer did, in fact, commit the alleged infraction, and the penalty will be less than the penalty should the complaint go through the normal disciplinary process. For those officers on a promotional register, Negotiated Settlements have the added benefit of resolving a complaint as quickly as possible so that a pending investigation doesn’t interfere with a promotion.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it is beneficial for some, but not all. If the officer didn’t commit the alleged dereliction, then the officer might not want to take the settlement. If the investigation, should it be investigated fully and sustained, would result in a Letter if Reprimand, and the settlement offer is a Letter of Reprimand, then the officer might want to consider letting the Department investigate. However, if the pending investigation would prevent a promotion and the officer did, in fact, violate the rules as alleged, then it may very well be in the officer’s best interest to accept the settlement. Call your FOP attorney. It will make the analysis a little easier.
EDUCATION IN LIEU OF DISCIPLINE
On May 21, newly revised regulations on discipline will become effective. One of the new options available to supervisors will be the use of education in lieu of discipline. In the case of minor, rank-initiated complaints, education may be available to replace suspensions of 10 days or less. For violations that fall in the “D” class or higher, education cannot be used to eliminate discipline, but it can still be used to reduce it. In short, for A, B, and C violations, training can be used to eliminate suspensions 10 days or fewer. For D, E, F, or G violations, or suspensions greater than 10 days, training can serve to reduce the penalty. Click here to see the new regulation on Non-Disciplinary Responses to Minor Violations and the Disciplinary Penalty Matrix (includes education in lieu of discipline).
DISCIPLINE AND THE CONSENT DECREE
After many meetings and much complaining by the FOP, there are some pending changes to the consent decree, particularly paragraphs 143, 328, and 404. The changes will relieve supervisors from responding to a level 1 use of force. In addition, disciplinary investigations which can be conclusively resolved through the use of video evidence (BWC or MVU) can be disposed of without further investigation. We recognize that investigation of complaints is an extremely important aspect of modern policing. That being said, the FOP remains committed to reducing the adverse impact these investigations have on the efficiency of an officer’s ability to do the job expected of him or her. Click here and here to see the impending changes to the consent decree. The FOP also remains committed to fair outcomes of these investigations.
One of the biggest problems facing the legal profession is that many of the people who need legal services the most cannot afford those legal services. The FOP Legal Defense Plan makes legal services available to its members at an affordable price, all contained in bi-weekly dues. Appealing a suspension would likely be beyond the financial resources of your average officer. When that appeal goes to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal or the Louisiana Supreme Court, the ability to absorb that cost becomes even more unlikely. When an officer falls into a situation like we have seen around the country in places like Missouri, Maryland, and Minnesota, where legal representation is not an option but a requirement, it can have a life-changing impact that no officer can survive on his own. Fortunately, as an FOP member, YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Click here for contact info.
I recently was invited by a friend who is an NOPD officer to attend a mediation facilitated by members of the Office of Independent Police Monitor. My role was to be his support person and chime in as needed during the discussion.
Across the table was a highly agitated fellow whom my friend has cited and arrested numerous times over the years. Their relationship is replicated endless times around the county and world between police officers and problem people on their beats.
It was a fiery exchange of allegations and not-so-subtle threats which my friend weathered with trademark calm. It provided a ringside seat for how measures to foster understanding between officers and the public they encounter can also be abused by career criminals to berate and accuse an officer.
We emerged the same as we went in, two supporters of proactive policing and community partnerships facing a proponent of crime & excuse making. The experience once again made me appreciate policing in what I call a ” post-police : city where law enforcement is overseen by folks who confuse our streets with mythical Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.
As a friend and safety advocate, I could do no less than honor his request to be a support person.
Nadra Enzi aka Cap Black, safety advocate in an unsafe city.
I’m a big fan of neighborhood watch. It fits my model of having residents create safety within their comfort zones. For most folks, they’re comfortable peering through the blinds and calling 911.
In combative cities like New Orleans, Neighborhood Walk is my suggestion to folks whose streets are overtaken by violent youth and other criminals. Neighborhood Watch is often organized in relatively stable communities. While high crime areas have it too, stability comes only if visibility is present.
While I created my own citizen patrol, Cap Black Street Patrol, Neighborhood Walk is what I’d like to see proactive folks start doing in captive communities. I’ll gladly help organize them but my purpose isn’t just to recruit people for my group. I’d love new members but want folks hitting the pavement on their own too!
In a city with a police department under a federal consent decree; with plummeting officer morale and man power, deterring crime is our responsibility now more than ever! New Orleans streets belong to those who actively claim them and it’s clear law abiding citizens aren’t currently doing the claiming.
Lets help our communities and our police department, by deterring crime and serving as witnesses when we hit the pavement.
The streets belong to us too.
Nadra Enzi aka Cap lBack, RLSH: real life superhero for folks feeling like zeroes!
Forgive my dripping sarcasm but pointers on how to do federally handcuffed policing ( New Orleans Police Department is under a restrictive consent decree ) in hyper-violent cities doesn’t inspire great confidence.
DOJ consent decrees and reports never admit how disrespectful and dangerous urban offenders and cheerleading onlookers are. As a stakeholder I’m surrounded by them and as a safetyist actively guard against them. The federal suits and consultants miss how violent New Orleans and Baltimore truly are. Police didn’t create the thug mentality holding innocents hostage. Police didn’t create gangs which outgun precincts. Police didn’t create single mothers weaponizing boys who are ” misfits… whom police have to deal with aggressively, ” to quote Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.
Taking timid tactics imposed upon NOPD and implementing them in a genuine war zone like Baltimore means officers will die at the hands of an enemy without constitutional rules of engagement. Only in urban areas are assailants needs placed above those of hostage residents and captive cops. This would never happen in the suburbs. Sounds like the ” bigotry of low expectations, ” to quote George W. Bush.
-Nadra Enzi aka Cap Black, Your UrbanSafetyist. @nadraenzi on twitter.
by Jacob Lundy
As always, FOP New Orleans strives to keep members ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in law and policy; both of which seem to occur with considerable frequency in recent years.
As all members of the New Orleans Police Department are aware; we have yet to see any of our body worn camera videos on the evening news. Whether you think that’s a good or a bad thing, it is likely to change in the future. Given events in Chicago over the past several months, combined with the general direction of criminal justice transparency it seems likely that all body worn camera-equipped agencies nationwide will be forced to contend with the public’s desire to see what all these cameras are recording sooner or later. NOPD, for good reason, hastened the implementation of body camera use for the obvious benefits they provide to both police officers and citizens. Clearly, the idea was to get body cameras out into the field as quickly as possible and revisit aspects of Policy 447 (BWC) as needed. As with an ever increasing number of other states, Louisiana state law may soon dictate how and when such videos are made available to the public – among a number of other issues related to managing a body worn camera program.
The State Legislature has convened a body worn camera task force with the aim of submitting a final report on a variety of concerns related to the possibility of state-wide implementation of body worn cameras. As you might expect, FOP has a seat on the Louisiana Legislature Law Enforcement Task Force for Body Camera Implementation.
While body worn cameras are nothing new to NOPD; public release of footage would add another dimension to the now ubiquitous workplace devices and FOP intends to prepare its membership for the corresponding challenges. While a finalized state law could be quite a ways down the road, NOPD continues to transform into an agency of national firsts; FOP would not be surprised to see the department blaze its own trail ahead of the legislature in this arena. Regardless, FOP New Orleans would suggest officers assume today that all videos generated will be subject to public viewing. All of us at NOPD have been working over the past two years with the understanding that all issues of policy and law, from courtesy to use of force, can and will be reviewed via body camera footage by PIB, the FBI, FIT, OCDM, and the IPM (I believe that’s all of them). The men and women of NOPD have embraced the technology and far exceeded expectations in both implementation and performance. Regardless of the department’s exceptional performance, under any new public release law or policy a primary concern of lodge attorney Donovan Livaccari are the implications of actions and statements made between officers during and immediately following critical incidents which were formerly analyzed only by field experts. Members are reminded that a side effect of such transparency is that your actions are likely to be subjectively analyzed, often out of context, by any number of pundits for whom controversy = revenue. Your detractors are not necessarily influenced by the guiding principles of Graham v. Connor. Officers should remain cognizant that all statements made immediately following highly stressful encounters on body camera are indelible and have the ability to shape post hoc analysis of critical incidents. There is really no reason to be ambiguous on this topic; while engaged in the scope of your employment, should you become involved in a major use of force, however justified, you will become a de facto suspect in a criminal investigation. This is a practical FYI for all FOP members who are negotiating a rapidly changing law enforcement environment where literally everything you say and do is recorded – and may soon be at the top of the 5 o’clock news. FOP representatives will be making the rounds in the near future to discuss legal, privacy, and policy concerns with members.
As referenced above, the Louisiana Legislature created the Louisiana Legislature Law Enforcement Task Force for Body Camera Implementation in late 2015 which is comprised of various experts from state and local law enforcement, attorneys, ACLU and NAACP representatives, mayors, Darrell Basco (President of the Louisiana FOP), and is chaired by Franz Borghardt (criminal defense attorney, Baton Rouge). I spoke with Chairman Borghardt in Baton Rouge following the first meeting of the committee for some background and details on the work ahead, keeping in mind any eventual state legislation will certainly apply to NOPD and guide our continued use of the technology.
Chairman Borghardt on the creation of the task force; “the legislature, in HCR 180 (2015 R.S.), created the task force to study and make recommendations regarding requirements for the development and implementation of policies and procedures for the use of body cameras by law enforcement. This came from a House concurrent resolution by Representative Honore and Senator Broome as a response to legislation that was proposed to mandate, by law, the required use of the devices. The task force’s continued existence is governed by resolution and the task force itself serves at the pleasure of the Louisiana Legislature.” Borghardt continued, “the ultimate goal of the task force is to make an informed and well thought out proposal to the Louisiana Legislature with regard to the implementation and use of body cameras in Louisiana. This includes policies and procedures on implementation, considerations for privacy rights and officer safety, effects on public records law, data storage, and cost considerations.”
To-date the task force has met once for public discussion, a review of the goals of the committee, and homework was assigned to all members for research and input from their respective bodies/agencies to be submitted at future meetings. The committee will reconvene in March 2016.
Some early discussions of the committee have been focused on a constitutional issue surrounding any mandate that all agencies in Louisiana implement body cameras; under Louisiana’s constitution, the state cannot mandate municipalities implement body cameras without paying for them. I think everyone would agree the state is in no position financially to pay for several thousand body cameras and incur the cost of maintenance and storage. The state does have the option of something called an unfunded mandate, meaning the legislature could require municipalities to implement body cameras at their own cost; those that do not would have state funding in some other area cut (remember when the federal government “suggested” Louisiana raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 or they would cut federal highway dollars = unfunded mandate). This avenue seems unlikely, however. On this particular issue, committee Chairman Franz Borghardt said “legislation that creates an unfunded mandate would likely be something that all parties involved would like to avoid.” What route the state takes in requiring or suggesting all police agencies adopt body cameras remains to be seen, Borghardt identified “long term cost of data storage” as one of the biggest perceived obstacles to state-wide implementation.
Beyond state mandates and associated costs, the most contentious item seems to be the host of privacy issues that surface with body camera use. This includes everything from front-end privacy concerns (can a citizen request an officer turn off his/her camera in their residence, filming in hospitals/schools, etc.) to back-end issues such as release of videos pursuant to records requests – the committee is also discussing whether our current public records law infrastructure would apply to camera footage as-is.
Recently committee Chairman Franz Borghardt, Louisiana FOP President Darrell Basco, and others appeared as panelists on the Louisiana Public Square television show in Baton Rouge to discuss the committee’s work and common concerns about body cameras. FOP New Orleans also participated in the discussion on behalf of members to voice lodge concerns. We recommend viewing the show to get a state-wide gauge for the direction of body cameras in Louisiana (watch the show by clicking this link).
In addition to formulating FOP’s official position on specific points on the commitee’s agenda, FOP President Basco cautioned the committee against hasty legislation that could potentially negatively impact both officers and the public. President Basco is advocating for a thorough review of existing state law elsewhere; the successes and failures of legislation in other states, carefully considering Louisiana’s privacy concerns, and preparing a proposal for a future session so that all members of the committee feel confident in any end result legislation.
All members of the task force, including the FOP, are sourcing model legislation and existing research and data for submission to the committee. Representatives from New Orleans will also be giving a presentation to the committee on our city’s two years of experience with body worn cameras including the various pros and cons over that time.
Members wishing to see the direction other states have paved in this area can refer to The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press site which includes an interactive map with links to each state’s body camera laws (both existing and in-progress legislation). Also worth reading; the Department of Justice/Police Executive Research Forum study “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program; Recommendations and Lessons Learned”.
Regardless of existing data and research, Chairman Borghardt appropriately points out that “it is evident that the implementation of body cameras, in as much as policy and procedures can be enacted, will also require organic growth in understanding unforeseen issues with their use.”
As FOP New Orleans’ policy chair, I can report with confidence from the legislative committee to ongoing discussions in Baton Rouge; there is overwhelming support for body cameras across Louisiana but no consensus on when and how videos should be made public.
Additional articles/studies and relevant law can be found in the hyperlinks below;
Louisiana Title 44.1 et seq Public Records Louisiana Revised Statutes
7 Findings from First Ever Study on Body Cameras PoliceOne.com
Growing use of Police Body Cameras Raises Privacy Concerns Los Angeles Times
Use of Force Reporting Guide and Checklist Signal108, Donovan Livacarri
In May of 2013 the Los Angeles Police Department was unceremoniously released from a twelve year consent decree in a three-line ruling by District Judge Gary Feess; the same federal judge responsible for extending LAPD’s original time frame from five years to ten, and eventually twelve years. The LAPD was the first municipal police agency to undergo a consent decree after Congress granted the Justice Department new powers to seek injunctive relief by suing state and local governments in federal court – powers extended specifically to address problems in the LAPD that would later be used in binding over 20 additional U.S. agencies in consent decrees.
“When the decree was entered, LAPD was a troubled department whose reputation had been severely damaged by a series of crises, In 2008, as noted by the monitor, ‘LAPD has become the national and international policing standard for activities that range from audits to handling of the mentally ill to many aspects of training to risk assessment of police officers and more,’” Feess wrote of the release.
Periodically, I like to take a moment to make sure people are up to speed on the status of formal disciplinary investigations for NOPD and the benefits provided by the FOP Legal Defense Plan.
The federal consent decree entered into by the City of New Orleans and the Dept. of Justice requires that complaint classification be “allegation-based” as opposed to “outcome-based.” That has been interpreted to mean that whatever the allegation is, even if it is extraordinarily unlikely or impossible, that allegation will be investigated. While I disagree that the consent decree requires a full, formal investigation into every allegation, the current interpretation results in that conclusion. The end result is that every complaint, no matter how insignificant, is likely to result in a formal disciplinary investigation.
A quick update:
It appears the number of DI-1 investigations are up significantly. As most NOPD personnel are likely aware, most investigations are being conducted by division supervisors. The consent decree requires that investigations involving allegations of criminal misconduct, unreasonable use of force, discriminatory policing, false arrest or planting evidence, untruthfulness/false statements, unlawful search, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, and theft must be conducted by PIB personnel as opposed to division supervisors.
Paragraph 399 of the consent decree indicates that internal investigations must be allegation based as opposed to being based on the anticipated outcome. The NOPD has interpreted this as meaning they must investigate every complaint as described by the complainant, no matter how ridiculous the complaint may be on its face.
The body worn cameras have paid some dividends in a few cases. There have been several allegations made against officers that have been clearly and unequivocally discounted based on body worn camera evidence. Paragraph 400 of the consent decree limits the circumstances that an investigation can be classified as NFIM (no formal investigation merited) to complaints contesting traffic citations, complaints about delay in police services, complaints about off duty civil matters, or if the person complained about does not work for NOPD. The NOPD has interpreted that to mean that absent those limited circumstances, a full investigation, including statements, etc., must be conducted even if there is video evidence exonerating the officer. It was my suggestion, on behalf of the FOP, that paragraph 400 of the consent decree would allow the NOPD to assess video evidence and assign a formal disposition at the intake stage if warranted. This would serve to reduce the workload of division supervisors. This would also reduce the amount of time that officers, who would normally be serving the public, would be off the street tending to unsubstantiated complaints.
In addition to increasing the efficiency of the disciplinary system, this plan should also include referring cases proven to be false through video evidence for investigation as to whether the complainant violated La. R.S. 14:133.5 relative to Filing a False Complaint Against a Law a Enforcement Officer and referred for prosecution. The officer should also be made aware of any complaint proven to be false to allow the officer to pursue civil remedies if he or she chooses.
The Fraternal Order of Police provides legal representation to its members as a benefit of membership. With complaints up and more and more people with different motivations and interests participating in the internal investigation process, it is more important than ever to take advantage of these legal services. It is best to call as soon as you learn of the existence of a complaint. Sometimes an officer is notified of a pending complaint and sometimes an officer does not find out until they receive a notice of an extension hearing at Civil Service. In any event, an officer can contact me directly or Jim Gallagher, our Legal Committee Chairman, regarding the legal services provided by the FOP. The FOP is committed to protecting the rights of its members under all circumstances, minor or serious.
Economic Impact for the City of New Orleans
Sugar Bowl (2012) – $493.73 million (Metro New Orleans) http://www.allstatesugarbowl.org/site.php?pageID=19&newsID=564#.Uy3IA61dViY
WrestleMania XXX – Unknown – Estimated 80,000 visitors http://www.neworleanscvb.com/press-media/press-kit/whats-new/
What do all of these things have in common? The police details which contribute significantly to making these events safe and successful will not be handled by the Office of Police Secondary Employment (OPSE).