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ZURIK: Timesheets show questionable practices among NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 7:09 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The city of New Orleans’ website says the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau “promotes the credibility of, and public confidence in, New Orleans police officers.” It says the P.I.B. “adopts preventive and proactive measures to enforce the highest standards of professional police performance and conducts, as well as directing investigations into citizen and NOPD-initiated allegations of police misconduct.”

However, documents uncovered by FOX 8 show some high-ranking officers, who are in charge of policing the police, may actually have broken the rules themselves, and now, the NOPD confirms another one of its officers is under criminal investigation.

Hours before the Texas Longhorns and Georgia bulldogs kicked off in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019, records show NOPD officer Sabrina Richardson started an off-duty detail shift at the Superdome. Her shift started at 4:30 p.m. and went until midnight.

When the calendar flipped to Jan. 2, Richardson moved to another detail shift, to patrol the neighborhood near the fairgrounds from midnight until noon. After being off the clock for just 25 minutes, Richardson clocked in for regular NOPD duty, working from 12:25 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

With all hours clocked, the now-NOPD Captain claimed she stayed awake and on the clock from 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 until 9 p.m. on Jan. 2, except for one 25-minute break.

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Richardson is part of the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau. It’s the team of officers who are responsible for policing their own. A prior series of FOX 8 investigations showed NOPD officers abusing the detail program. That included examples of officers double-dipping, doing detail and duty work at the same time. FOX 8 also found officers breaking NOPD policy, and examples of officers claiming to do detail work while racing a car or walking the dog.

Now, timesheets show officers in the P.I.B. might have some similar violations.

In four years, FOX 8 found 26 instances of Sabrina Richardson working detail and duty shift at the same time.

That includes March 20, 2019, when Richardson said she worked an off-duty detail shift at Restaurant Depot from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., while NOPD records showed her on the clock for a regular duty shift.

NOPD watchdog Skip Gallagher calls the timesheet discrepancies concerning. “She was the ranking officer at P.I.B. up until very recently, and she has some really significant payroll issues,” said Gallagher. “This double-dipping issue, I just don’t get. You have a detail and you’re working duty at the same time? This doesn’t make sense. And I think and officers who work a normal 40-hour a week, this just doesn’t happen.”

Records show Richardson repeatedly broke an NOPD policy that says officers can work a maximum of 16 hours and 35 minutes in a 24-hour period. In one case, she worked 34 hours, with only a 2-hour break.

On December 6, 2021, the NOPD sent FOX 8 an email, saying Richardson had been suspended from doing detail work, pending an investigation into her secondary employment records.

However, that suspension didn’t last long. About two weeks later, Richardson was allowed to return to off-duty details. Records show she worked a detail patrolling the neighborhood near the fairgrounds on Dec. 23, and continued working details in January, February, March, and April of 2022.

Sources tell FOX 8 the Public Integrity Bureau recused itself from the investigation and that the head of the Homicide Unit at the time, Nick Gernon, investigated and sustained 44 complaints against Richardson. Sources also say after the investigation, Gernon was moved out of the Homicide Unit to the Crime Lab, a possible demotion according to some in the department.

Tulane Law professor Joel Friedman questions the investigation and events that followed. “When you learn that, a homicide detective is asked to investigate, and that person says, ‘Fine, I’ll do my best.’ They do their best. They find the violations. They report it to the persons they’re supposed to. And then they get demoted? What does that tell the rest of the police department? PIB officers are untouchables. They can do whatever they want. It’s shocking. It’s more outrageous, frankly than if they hadn’t investigated. To do the good faith investigation, and then the demote the investigator. It’s disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful.”

FOX 8 also found other officers working for the P.I.B. who might have violated NOPD policies.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

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ZURIK: Several NOPD officers receive federal target letters

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In December, the NOPD also suspended P.I.B. officer Wayne Jacque from detail work. That suspension lasted less than three weeks, and Jacque returned to working details even though his payroll records raise serious red flags.

On Dec. 16, 2019, the NOPD paid Jacque for 31 hours of work in a 24-hour period, after he had 7 hours of overlap working an NOPD duty shift, and a detail shift at the Superdome. On Dec. 15, Jacque clocked in for a detail shift at the Smoothie King Center from 12:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. He clocked in for his NOPD shift that night starting at 6:25 p.m. and worked until 3 p.m. the next day. However, at 7:30 a.m. on the 16th, he started a detail at the Superdome, which lasted until 11:30 p.m.

“For these people, of all people, who know all the rules, and are there to judge their peers, to be blatantly and repeatedly over a significant length of time violating clear police policy in a way that only enhances their financial being is really disappointing and distressing,” said Friedman. “They should be held to a higher standard. And judges are always held to a higher standard. I mean, who am I to judge others, If I’m not at least being held to a higher standard?”

In mid-July 2019, Jacque claimed to be on either detail or duty work shifts for 41 hours straight, essentially working a full week in one stretch. Friedman says if he worked all the hours, he’s still in violation of department policy.

“I guess, suppose it’s physically possible. But it’s against the very clear departmental policy. And we don’t want officers out on the street, they carry a gun, having worked 41 hours, I’m sure they didn’t work 41 hours in a row,” said Friedman.

In a statement, the NOPD told FOX 8, “Richardson and Wayne Jacque were suspended for the same amount of time as other officers who were being investigated related to what was determined to be administrative violations. Once it was determined Richardson’s violations were possibly criminal in nature, her detail privileges were again suspended.”

Records show Richardson hasn’t done a detail since early April.

FOX 8 also found a former P.I.B. employee with questionable timesheets. Sergeant Trinell Franklin investigated her fellow officers while working at the P.I.B. She retired in 2020.

However, FOX 8 found Franklin likely broke NOPD policy, by calling in sick for NOPD duty, then working details instead. Timesheets showed 14 instances in four years.

“You’re entitled to take sick leave...But you’re expected to stay home until you get better. To say, ‘Well, I’m too sick to work in the police station, so, I’m going to spend that time in detail.’ And of course, now I’m getting paid twice, for the detail and the sick pay, this couldn’t be a mistake,” said Friedman.

Franklin has since retired from the NOPD, but has still been allowed to work details. Although, the NOPD now says those privileges have been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

The long stretches of work with few breaks may have broken NOPD policy, and they helped the officers earn lots of extra money. In 2019, between detail and duty work, Trinell Franklin made $132,000, Sabrina Richardson made $141,000, and Wayne Jaque made $155,000.

Gallagher is troubled that some of the officers responsible for deciding whether fellow officers violate rules or the law, could possibly have done the same thing themselves. “Well, they’re the police of the police,” said Gallagher. “They should have an ethical level that rises to a standard that should be at the top of what the police are capable of. And if they have integrity issues, if they have payroll fraud issues, they shouldn’t be at P.I.B. to start with, and then how does P.I.B. actually investigate one of its own?”

The NOPD’s statement to FOX 8 went on to say, “The assertion that Captain Nicholas Gernon was the subject of any retribution related to an investigation he conducted related to Captain Sabrina Richardson is false. All Captains are paid the same salary regardless of their assignment. Captain Gernon was moved to the Crime Lab because his previous experience in that role will serve the department well as the new facility comes online. That vacancy was the result of Captain Bruce Haney being returned to the NOPD Education and Training Academy after the departure of Captain Daryl Albert to Montgomery, Alabama. Like Gernon, Haney’s previous experience at the Academy made him the best choice to resume that role.”

Donovan Livacarri, the attorney for Wayne Jacque told FOX 8, “Wayne is one of those guys whose primary motivation is to learn the truth and do the right thing.” He says Jacque received no special treatment and many of the questions are issues by the Office of Police Secondary Employment. Livicarri went on to say, “He did have a job which required him to be on call all the time. And, he got called out a lot. Those callouts caused problems because they tracked those hours not necessarily for pay, but some got entered for pay anyway.”

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