ZURIK: NOPD Lieutenant returns to detail work after suspension over alleged abuse of program
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Former New Orleans Police Captain Sabrina Richardson recently completed a 120-day unpaid suspension from the department. That suspension came after FOX 8 investigations found in a four-year period, it appeared Richardson double-dipped at least 26 times, working regular NOPD shifts and off-duty details at the same time.
NOPD Watchdog Skip Gallagher says the 120-day suspension is the longest that he can find in NOPD records.
“I can’t find an officer that’s ever been suspended in the history of New Orleans for that long. Now, it could be, but I wasn’t able to find anyone who was demoted and suspended for that period of time. And that’s their maximum suspension,” Gallagher said.
One example FOX 8 found of Richardson appearing to claim to be in two places at once was March 20, 2019. That day, Richardson claimed to work an off-duty detail shift at Restaurant Depot from 3 to 7 p.m. However, at the same time, NOPD records show Richardson on the clock for a duty shift.
FOX 8 also requested license plate reading camera information from the more than 100 cameras across the city. In six months’ worth of photos, FOX 8 found eight instances where Richardson claimed to work an off-duty detail, but cameras caught her police unit miles away from the detail assignments.
That included November 27, 2021, when Richardson was supposed to work a detail at Champions Square from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., leading up to the Bayou Classic football game. However, at 1:07 p.m., a license plate reading camera snapped a picture of her police unit on the West Bank, about five miles away from Champions Square. About an hour later, another camera caught her unit on Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East.
An NOPD Public Integrity Bureau investigation found 44 irregularities, all related to Richardson’s off-duty detail work.
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After serving her 120-day suspension, Richardson returned to full paid duty in February 2023, and the NOPD allowed her to resume working off-duty details. Gallagher says that appears to violate the NOPD’s own policy which says detail work is for officers in good standing with the department.
“By their own policy, 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.
Tulane Law Professor Emeritus Joel Friedman questions why Richardson was allowed to return to detail work so quickly after being suspended for allegedly abusing the system. The NOPD tells FOX 8 Richardson will also be working an off-duty detail at French Quarter Fest this month.
“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.
In 2022, FOX 8 reported the FBI is also investigating Richardson. Friedman believes that ongoing investigation should have made Richardson ineligible for working details.
“The fact that she’s under federal investigation, by itself should have been enough to continue her to be off duty during this time. She’s again presumed innocent of everything. She hasn’t even been charged with anything. She’s still under investigation. But obviously, there’s something going on here… They didn’t suspend her because she’s under investigation, they suspended her because they know what she did with the double dipping on the details, which is fraud, at a minimum, both criminal and otherwise. So, it’s disheartening,” Friedman said.
FOX 8 has also learned Richardson may be under investigation by the NOPD as well. FOX 8 obtained an email from late February. In it, an NOPD officer asks for more information on Richardson, saying he’s been assigned to investigate her for alleged criminal allegations. Gallagher says he doesn’t understand how an officer who just came off a 120-day suspension and is the subject of two criminal investigations can be returned to off-duty detail work. He believes those overseeing the NOPD’s consent decree may have the same questions, especially after monitors said a lack of progress in policing details led to the NOPD’s regression in getting released from the costly federal oversight.
“I really think you’re thumbing your nose at the consent decree. You’ve spelled out conditions. And again, I’ve said this already, the aorta of corruption, the details are really at the heart of why we ended up with a consent decree. And now we still have significant problems with the consent decree, we have an officer that got caught red-handed, not at her details, charging for those details, being paid for those details, and yet is being returned quickly, it appears, to details. How does that make sense?... If I was the federal judge, I would really be talking to people like, ‘What are you doing? What are you thinking of here?’ There are honest officers that you can find within the department to put in charge of this, or to put on this detail. And yet, you haven’t done that. You’ve elected to take someone who has been found repeatedly taking advantage of the detail system, and I think that’s such a subtle statement, it’s payroll fraud. It’s a criminal offense,” Gallagher said.
After FOX 8′s investigation aired on Wednesday, NOPD Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork issued the following statement:
“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. The report that Lieutenant Richardson is under a federal investigation is false. As such, according to NOPD policy she is authorized to work extra duty details through the Office of Police Secondary Employment.
“NOPD Officers put their lives on the line every day in serving the community. These brave men and women deserve better than to be maligned in ill-informed news reports presented to the public.
“This type of journalism only serves as a distraction to our real mission of making New Orleans a safer city. It makes a mockery of real news and only perpetuates the sharing of misinformation which leads to distrust and creates a divide between the NOPD officers and the community they serve.”
However, sources tell FOX 8 Richardson is indeed under federal investigation, although, we do not believe she has received a target letter from the FBI.
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