Mayor stands firm on possible cuts from consent decrees - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Mayor stands firm on possible cuts from consent decrees; firefighters concerned

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New Orleans, La. — Mayor Mitch Landrieu is not backing away from his assertion that public safety, including the police and fire departments, will suffer if the city is forced to pay for two federal consent decrees at once. And talk of possible cuts has the head of the firefighters union concerned.

The rift between the mayor and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman over funding the consent decree for Orleans Parish Prison shows no signs of waning.

"He's the reason why we had to back up on the police consent decree," Landrieu said Wednesday.

Gusman issued a statement to the media Friday, saying Landrieu's administration has been inconsistent because it now wants a federal judge to let the city out of the NOPD consent decree Landrieu negotiated with the U.S. Justice Department. Last summer Landrieu, praised the agreement during a press conference with Attorney General Eric Holder.

Landrieu has said for weeks that the city cannot afford the millions of dollars needed for the mandated NOPD reforms plus the cost of the subsequent consent decree for OPP.

"That amount of money will threaten public safety in New Orleans and makes it impossible for the city of New Orleans to do both things at the same time," Landrieu said to reporters.

Gusman has repeatedly said that funding for his office falls on City Hall.  "The city is obligated under the law to provide adequate funding for the sheriff's office," Gusman said recently.

In court documents, City Hall maintains that the NOPD and the city's fire department would face cuts if city government is forced to pay for all of the reforms at once. Landrieu said he has given that message to Justice Department officials.

"I said to them the consequence of that is I'm going to have to lay off police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services so that I can give a sheriff that's running a poor jail more money.  That doesn't make sense to me," Landrieu stated.

Talk of possible cuts worries Nick Felton, president of the Firefighters Association of New Orleans.

"I'm concerned, deeply... I mean, it's so vital in the community.  We're strapped so low, the fire department's already behind the eight ball," Felton said.

And Felton said morale is already a problem among the rank and file of the fire department.  "The morale is low and we try to do everything that we can, and things like possible layoffs or possible furloughs absolutely erode at that," he said.

"The mayor's request for a better deal from the federal government, I think, is the right thing, absolutely believe it's the right thing," said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

"I am not voluntarily going to lay off police officers so that I can give Sheriff Gusman more money to run what everybody has agreed is a terrible jail," added Landrieu.

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