NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On August 13, NOPD Chief Michael Harrison announced the results of what the department called a major drug bust dubbed ‘Operation Summer Heat'.
“We took those citizen complaints and we went to the neighborhood where we knew those drug dealers were occurring and we engaged those drug dealers face to face and purchased contraband from them,” says Chief Harrison.
Law enforcement arrested 72 drug suspects within a week.
“We will address it and be laser focused on ensuring that our public is safe,” says Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
FOX 8 began following each of the 72 suspects through the criminal justice system. A week and a half after the news conference, 50 of the 72 were out of jail and back on the street.
FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says when setting a bond a judge must consider a number of factors.
“Under the rules, it says a judge is supposed to consider a threat to society to others or yourself or your risk of flight a component of that is how many prior convictions you have,” says Joe Raspanti.
Twelve of the 72 suspects received a bond of $1000 or less. A Magistrate Judge gave five of those 12 suspects a bond of $350 or less.
"I don’t know the whole story, but if some of these guys are quad bills meaning they could be facing 20 to life. Those are people, not because of what they’re arrested for but because of their past conviction history may warrant higher bonds,” says Raspanti.
31 suspects received a bond between $5000 and $20,000.
Police booked suspect Dwayne Morris with distribution of cocaine. He received a $5000 bond and the same Magistrate Judge that gave him that bond then reduced it to $150.
“I think the judges who have the ultimate discretion are being nudged one way by the state legislature who wants to cut down on prison rolls versus the police department who made a lot of arrests and risks themselves and the DA who wants to keep these people in jail so he can prosecute them,” says Raspanti.
Of the 72 suspects taken off the street during ‘Operation Summer Heat’, 22 of them remain locked up. Nine of the 22 aren’t able to bond out because of previous parole or probation holds triggered by their prior arrests.
We reached out to the city and to the NOPD, but we have not heard back. The DA had no comment. The Chief Judge at Criminal District Court says she wants to look at these cases individually before commenting.