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City of New Orleans attempts exit of consent decree, protesters demand community control of the police

By Abbey Lodwig

Toni Jones speaks in front of New Orleans federal building.

New Orleans, LA – June 28 at 8:30 a.m., a dozen people rallied outside the Hale Boggs Federal Building on Poydras Street with New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police (NOCOP). They demanded the New Orleans Police Department Consent Decree, the most expansive one in the nation, not be waived.

The consent decree is an oversight agreement from the U.S. Department of Justice. It was put in place in 2013 to respond to racist policing, civil rights violations, and unconstitutional police conduct. Protesters emphasized that the consent decree is not a substitute for real community control of the police.

NOCOP is demanding the consent decree remain in place and that the city of New Orleans stop boycotting hearings. They asked that Judge Morgan hold the city in contempt for not showing up to hearings meant to keep the public informed.

“We want to keep the consent decree to know when the police are doing wrong, but we need something more, we need real accountability, we need community oversight,” said Toni Jones from NOCOP.

Jones said, “We need the city council to adopt a civilian police accountability council (CPAC) instead of relying on temporary federal oversight. A CPAC would allow for elected community members to monitor and hold disciplinary power over the police.”

After the rally, supporters went inside to watch the court hearings between the city and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide the fate of the decree. The city argued that they had addressed the corruption, violence and bias that were the reason for federal oversight. The city said they were entitled to exit, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

The DOJ reported that the New Orleans Police Department was clearly out of compliance. They cited that 40% of police holds were not even documented and of the 23 that were, 17 were clearly not justified.

They also explained that 13% of people arrested were not read their Miranda rights.

White drivers remain less likely to be asked to leave a car after being stopped then Black drivers. Also, response times for calls for help were substantially slower in Black neighborhoods then in white ones.

City officials complained that they wanted out of the decree so that they could “oversee themselves.” Members of the community voiced concern that this would mean more violence against Black people in the city, with no avenue for transparency.

Judge Susie Morgan, who presided over the court, requires more time to deliberate before coming back with a decision. People watching seemed optimistic she would see through the city’s flimsy argument.

“She was clearly annoyed and frustrated by the city attorney, and poked holes in any argument the city had for leaving the decree,” said J Martel of NOCOP.

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