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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Anecdotal allegations of persistent racial profiling by New Orleans police punctuated a meeting of a City Council panel on Wednesday.
At the meeting, local government watchdogs said better data collection is needed to make sure officers are no longer doing unconstitutional race-based stops and frisks.
The meeting came after the release of a report last week by the city's Inspector General, Ed Quatrevaux.
The report said that flaws in the collection and analysis of data on field interview cards - reports filled out by officers after a stop - make it impossible to determine whether stops of individuals are done constitutionally and without evidence of age, gender, or racial profiling.
Problems cited in the report include the fact that under the current data system, when multiple people are stopped at one time for a field interview, only one card can be filled out on the incident.
The city's Independent Police Monitor, Susan Hutson, told council members Wednesday that her own study indicates that police department policy needs to provide guidance, including specific examples, on what qualifies as justifiable suspicion for a stop.
Hutson and others said there have been incidents in which questionable stops of black residents have been made by white and African-American officers. She said a member of her own staff was subject to a stop while simply riding with a friend who was driving through a neighborhood looking at houses.
"When my staff member asked, 'What's this about?' then her license was also obtained," Hutson told the council's Criminal Justice Committee. "And no reason was given for the stop whatsoever."
"There's no one getting stopped in my neighborhood but black men," resident Ronald McCoy said.
Police Chief Ronal Serpas said increased training, including help from federal agencies, has been instituted to avoid illegal profiling. And he said he hopes to use money budgeted for compliance with a federal court consent decree to upgrade data systems for better analysis of reports on individual stops.
That consent decree, meanwhile, has become a point of contention between the city and Justice Department officials, who were once in agreement over the reforms it spells out.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu called an emergency Thursday meeting of the full City Council to discuss the high costs of reforming the city's police department and jail.
Landrieu has been critical of an agreement between the Justice Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to improve conditions at the city-funded jail. The mayor says that agreement undermines the city's ability to fund its own agreement with Justice officials to reform the police department - an agreement the city sought unsuccessfully to back out of just before a judge approved it in January.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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