Just two days after taking office, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a press conference today to announce he has asked the Justice Department to intervene and force a “complete transformation” of the city’s troubled police department.
“I have inherited a police force that has been described by many as one of the worst police departments in the country. This assessment is made based on several indicators including the number of violent crimes, incidents of rape, and malfeasance by members of the police department,” Landrieu wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The force itself has been dealt a demoralizing blow with investigations, indictments, and resignations stemming from incidents in the days following Hurricane Katrina,” he wrote in a reference to the police killings of unarmed civilians on Danziger Bridge in 2005.
Landrieu asked Holder to assign a team from the Civil Rights Division, which has been handling the Danziger cases and already has a presence in New Orleans, to work with the city.
The head of the division, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, told TPMmuckraker last month his office is exploring “every conceivable jurisdictional option and every conceivable intervention” to reform the New Orleans Police Department.
In departments where there is a “pattern or practice” of abuse, the DOJ has the authority to impose federal oversight and force reforms like changes in management.
In response to Landrieu’s letter, DOJ spokesman Alejandro Miyar told TPMmuckraker in an email: “We will consider these requests to determine what action, if any, is appropriate.”
Read the full letter, via the Times-Picayune, here.
Earlier this week, a coalition of community groups including the ACLU of Louisiana and the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council, sent a letter to Perez arguing that city residents “are beleaguered by crime and a law enforcement agency that is incapable of correcting itself without federal intervention through your office and the federal courts.”