Following Zurik investigation, new NOPD policies may work, councilmember says

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 5:20 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans City Council member says a new NOPD policy put in place after a FOX 8 investigative series on alleged police detail abuse is a step in the right direction. But a leading police organization says that policy may not go far enough.

It was a Lee Zurik investigation that led to 29 New Orleans police officers being suspended from doing outside detail work to supplement their salaries. The investigation showed Sergeant Todd Morrell out racing cars while he was supposed to be working police shifts. He was earning more than $200,000 a year and has since resigned.

“I was very frustrated to see some of the names of the participants. It was disheartening,” said Councilman Jay Banks.

NOPD says it has identified a gap between the department’s payroll system and the office of police secondary employment that allowed the alleged double-dipping to occur.

“It’s hard to fight a war where the people who are supposed to be helping you fight are against you,” said Banks.

ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS

NOPD Sergeant caught on video at home while assigned detail

Timesheets, detail records reveal officers may have violated cap on work hours

NOPD suspends 26 officers from secondary employment following ‘Attention to the Details’ Investigation

NOPD Sergeant appears to be behind the wheel of racecar, instead of patrol car

Police officers claiming to work two jobs at the same time

The NOPD says it is now able to cross-reference when officers are working details and when they are supposed to work regular shifts as a way to eliminate double-dipping, but the attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police says there may be a better way.

“It’s going to have to be a cooperative endeavor or it will be doomed,” said FOP’s Donovan Livaccari.

The FOP says the Police Office of Secondary Employment has been overwhelmed from the beginning and a new approach is needed.

“Paid details are beneficial to citizens and officers. The OPSE was created with the specific direction to establish systems - human and technical - to ensure errors like these, if proven, did not happen. If there are any failures discovered in OPSE practices, that would be terribly disappointing and likely significant concern to Federal Monitors and the Court,” said former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas.

“The only way this will be successful is if there is a collaboration between the city, the officers, and the people hiring the officers for details,” said Livaccari.

LSU Health Criminologist Peter Scharf says the problem is bigger than the 29 suspended officers and he says the system needs to be fixed.

“Right now it’s so important that people trust police,” said Scharf.

Banks believes the new NOPD policy to prevent detail abuse could work.

“You have to protect the integrity of the good officers and punish the ones who aren’t doing what they are supposed to do,” said Banks.

Since our Fox 8 investigation, both the NOPD and the FBI are investigating to see if any of the suspended officers broke any laws.

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