Zurik: NOPD Interim Chief defends allowing formerly-suspended Lieutenant to work off-duty details

Updated: Apr. 6, 2023 at 5:05 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Interim Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, Michelle Woodfork, on Thursday (April 6) defended the department’s decision to allow former Captain Sabrina Richardson to return to detail work while she remains under investigation for allegedly abusing the detail program.

An investigation by FOX 8 revealed that Richardson was paid to be in two places at once, abusing the NOPD’s off-duty detail program. The investigation found 26 instances in which Richardson double-dipped, working both an on-duty NOPD shift and an off-duty detail shift simultaneously. Additionally, several instances were found when Richardson was being paid for details while license plate-reading cameras showed her unit miles away from the location of the detail she was scheduled to work.

An NOPD Public Integrity Bureau investigation confirmed FOX 8′s findings, identifying 44 instances of wrongdoing by Richardson. As a result, Richardson was suspended without pay for 120 days. However, once Richardson returned to active duty, she was allowed to resume working off-duty detail shifts.

Tulane Law Professor Emeritus Joel Friedman and NOPD watchdog Skip Gallagher criticized the decision to allow Richardson to make additional money from the program she was accused of abusing.

Gallagher argued that Richardson should be removed from details for the rest of her career.

“It doesn’t make sense by the fact that she didn’t just get caught doing something wrong. She got caught doing something wrong over details over this aorta of corruption. How is she allowed to continue doing this? She should be as far removed from details as humanly possible for the rest of her career,” Gallagher said.

NOPD policy states that detail work is a privilege for officers who are in good standing. Friedman questioned how someone accused of criminal action could be given such a benefit.

“It’s really disheartening again, that this benefit is being given to someone who has grossly and excessively committed - what I believe - is criminal action and certainly acted inconsistently with their obligations as a police officer,” Friedman said.

Woodfork says Richardson is not excluded from working details following her suspension.


NOPD Lieutenant returns to detail work after suspension over alleged abuse of program

Questions over punishment for former NOPD Captain accused of double-dipping

Cameras show NOPD officer’s vehicles far away from paid detail shifts

Timesheets show questionable practices among NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau

FOX 8 reported on Wednesday that Richardson is under federal investigation. Woodfork claimed the report was inaccurate, but two sources confirmed to FOX 8 that the FBI had asked questions about Richardson.

“The recent report regarding Lieutenant Sabrina Richardson is inaccurate. Lieutenant Richardson served her suspension and has been cleared by the Public Integrity Bureau to return to full duty status,” Woodfork said in a statement.

On Thursday, FOX 8 spoke to two sources who again confirmed the FBI has asked questions about Richardson. One source said the FBI asked for information on Richardson late last year. That source confirms sending the FBI documents following that inquiry. FOX 8 does note we do not know the nature of the investigation or how active it currently is.

Sources tell us Richardson has not received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney’s office. While a target letter means charges are likely, they are not always sent out to the subjects of federal investigations.

FOX 8 first reported the federal investigation on November 7, 2022, after a source told us the FBI was asking questions about her. A separate source confirmed that. No one disputed FOX 8′s initial report. The FBI never confirms or denies the existence of any investigations to the media.

Woodfork criticized the media’s reporting of the investigation, arguing that it only serves as a distraction to the NOPD’s mission of making New Orleans a safer city. She further claimed that such journalism perpetuates the sharing of misinformation and leads to distrust, creating a divide between the NOPD officers and the community they serve.

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