Council member to meet with administration over consent decree - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Council member to meet with administration over consent decree

Updated:
Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell discusses consent decree costs. Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell discusses consent decree costs.

New Orleans, La. -- A member of the City Council sits down with Landrieu administration officials Tuesday as she demands more answers on why the NOPD consent decree is so costly.

"We will probably try to negotiate with the administration on some areas," said Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell during an interview with FOX 8 News.

In July, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu at Gallier Hall to announce that the consent decree had been signed. It calls for sweeping reforms within the police department. Justice Department investigators called NOPD dysfunctional and steeped in unconstitutional police practices.

"The Justice Department is going to be looking to see that those changes are implemented, especially in the first year.  I think it's about getting a good start," said UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak.

But the $7 million needed to begin achieving the department's overhaul has some on the City Council looking to push the pause button. They believe some of the money is needed to hire more officers.

"I'm not in anyway saying the mayor didn't do the best job he could, but it just seems to me that it started off that we were going to pay $4 million the first year, it's now up to seven.  And in reading about Philly and L.A., some of them almost went to the point of bankruptcy just trying to adhere to the consent decree," said Hedge-Morrell.

Hedge-Morrell, who once chaired the council's budget committee, said she will meet with administration officials Tuesday in hopes of getting more answers.  But if the Justice Department does not budge on its demand that monitors be hired to keep tabs on the city's compliance, Hedge-Morrell said maybe they can take another approach.

"Then the next thing to do is look at phasing it in," she said.

"I'm not really sure they can strip away any of the money from the consent decree," said Chervenak.

He said the mayor negotiated the agreement with the feds and in this fight he has the most in his arsenal.  "He can just say look, I will veto this if you don't include the $7 million in there," said Chervenak.

Morrell said she is all for making sure police respect citizens' right, but hiring monitors when the city already has an independent police monitor does not make sense, in her opinion.

"Susan [Hutson] was the monitor for L.A., she was actually the federal monitor for L.A.  Why then can't she monitor here?" she asked.

Hedge-Morrell said not having to bring on additional monitors could save $3 million. 

Even as Hedge-Morrell questions what the city will have to shell out to pay for the NOPD consent decree, she remains very concerned about cuts to community programs.  "I am not going to allow the senior centers, any of them, to be cut at least without going down fighting over it," she said.

The council must approve a balanced budget for 2013 by December 1.

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