Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Reform Possible in the New Orleans Police Department?

More news has come forward in Federal investigations of the New Orleans Police Department. According to today's Times-Picayune, Lt. Michael Lohman, a 21-year veteran of the NOPD who was involved in the investigation of the Danziger Bridge shootings but not the incident itself, will be charged in a bill of information. The Picayune notes that "Such a charge usually signals that a defendant is cooperating with the government and thus would represent a major break in the case for federal prosecutors."

However, another news report from today indicates how difficult reform of the police department will be. Sgt. Warren Keller Jr, an officer who was fired by Warren Riley for initiating a racist drunken brawl at the Beach Corner bar in Mid City was reinstated by the city's Civil Service Commission on Tuesday. According to the Picayune, "In its ruling, the commission issued a scathing indictment of Riley, calling his termination of Sgt. Warren Keller Jr. 'arbitrary, capricious, and a clear abuse of his discretion.'"

This news comes a few months after a state appeals court overruled the New Orleans Police Department's decision to fire an officer who was caught on video beating Robert Davis, a 64-year-old retired teacher, in the days after Katrina.

It is extremely rare for an officer to be fired. These two situations were exceptional. In one case, the officer was shown on a video, replayed on news stations around the world, beating an elderly man; and in the other case the officer was one of the instigators of a racist clash that seemed like it must have happened in 1950, not 2008.

Yet in both these cases, the decision to fire the officer was overruled, and the officers will likely receive cash settlements and have the option to get their jobs back.

If officers caught in high-profile abuse of their power cannot even be fired, can the NOPD be reformed at all?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uh, when do you come out and use the words RILEY and NAGIN in this context?