Unique glimpse into violations committed by 39 NOPD employees - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Unique glimpse into violations committed by 39 NOPD employees

Updated:
A stack of reports, obtained FOX 8 and our investigative partners at The Lens, show instances where NOPD employees appear to violate the city's trust, according to the NOPD itself.

For the month of March, 39 NOPD employees faced some kind of disciplinary action. The violations ranged from poor performance, to public outbursts, insubordination, to just plain weird.

What happened on the corner of Jackson and South Claiborne Avenues left Sergeant James Young with a two-day suspension. According to police, he let a female suspect out of his police car there so she could urinate on the street.

The violation letter addressed to the sergeant reads…"The female (sic) hands were handcuffed behind her back and she lost balance and fell down. As you assisted in picking her up and assisted in pulling up her underwear you touched her and her underwear…This caused the citizen to feel she was treated indecently."

The letter goes on to say the sergeant should have requested a "female police officer to assist."

"The police department hasn't done a good enough of internally policing itself, so what you're seeing now is an attempt to regain internal control over the police department," said Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

"We're dealing with a situation where this police department, according to the justice department has some profound problems."

Also in March, 4 dispatchers were cited for "sleeping on duty"—three of them were given "letters of reprimand," while the other was suspended for 3 days.

Officer Terrell James was also caught napping at work and was also suspended for 3 days. In his case, however, a resident actually e-mailed the NOPD a photo of him "sleeping behind the steering wheel"—a photo the NOPD won't release.

James' violation letter reads, "several photographs were snapped of you sleeping while you worked at paid detail."

Then there's officer Jason Berger who received a 15-day suspension after leaving a "prisoner unattended" in the back of his police car—a prisoner who then escaped.

Officer Tracie Medus was suspended for 3 days after arguing with her NOPD supervisor and calling him "ADD—Attention Deficit Disorder."

And it was on Elysian Fields Avenue where police say Officer Carolyn Dalton yelled at a gas station attendant. According to her violation letter, she screamed "give me my f***ing money before I lose my f***ing job!" The report says she yelled it all in the presence of "customers and a small child."

"Well you can't make this up," said Susan Hutson, New Orleans Independent Police Monitor.

Hutson is charged with monitoring the NOPD's investigations into its own officers.

"That complaintent has followed up with us in the past and … wanted to know what happened because she just was so offended by what happened and her child was there," Hutson said. "It really has a huge impact in the community."

Two months ago, Hutson says her office launched a new database to better access officer investigation records in hopes of eventually issuing reports on those investigations. Data from the beginning of the year, however, is still being entered into the system.

"We have to fix some technical issues and then once we get it to just where we want it, and all the cases in the system, then we can write some accurate reports," Hutson said.

The Office of the Independent Police Monitor, according to Hutson, is expected to be caught up in entering previous 2011 police reports into the database by the end of the summer.

"And they'll just keep entering [the reports] as they go forward so we stay up to date," Hutson said.

One of those reports includes the investigation into Sergeant Luther Randall, who was suspended for 3 days.

In May of last year, he was at the International House of Pancakes on the West Bank at about 2:30am, where, according to the report, he was arguing with his girlfriend and "disturbing the peace by public intoxication." The report says Randall was later put in handcuffs by an off-duty Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputy.

"This is one of the things that our new database will help keep track of," Hustson said. "Issues that involve alcohol, issues that involve domestic issues because it's not just about disciplining, it's about what do we do now with this officer—do they have an issue with alcohol, do they have some type of issues with domestic situations? We need to make sure they are going in the right direction they need."

Sergeants Leo Peters and Kristi Bagneris were also disciplined in March both found in "neglect of duty" for failing to complete investigations "within the prescribed time period."

But the NOPD violation with the most offending officers was failing to show up to court.

13 cops were suspended for not appearing at hearings related to arrests they previously made.

Officer Chilton Lawrence tops them all, however, since he failed to show up to court 3 times in the same month.

"An officer, as in any witness in a case is subpoenaed and needs to be present in order to have the criminal case to proceed," said Janet Ahern, Executive Director of Court Watch NOLA, a nonprofit which monitors court cases in New Orleans.

Ahern says the number of times officers fail to show up to court is now minimal, and she credits the NOPD's approach in disciplining officers.

The NOPD did not respond to a request through its public affairs office, made by The Lens, for comment from each of the disciplined officers, nor did the department respond to FOX 8's request for an on-camera interview. However, spokesperson Remi Braden did provide a written statement, saying the new database used by Hutson is one example of progress.

"The disciplinary system that has been in place since the 1990's was unnecessarily lengthy and inefficient," Braden said.  "As part of Superintendent Serpas' rebuilding plan, efforts are being made to eliminate the red tape, because a (sic) disciplinary action is more effective if it is enforced in a timely manner."

For more on this story, visit The Lens.
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