Federal monitor raises concerns about Vappie investigation leaks, NOPD’s compliance with consent decree
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The federal monitor in charge of overseeing the New Orleans Police Department’s compliance with the consent decree says the department’s Public Integrity Bureau has been “backsliding.” The monitor’s 44-page report specifically cites the internal investigation into Officer Jeffrey Vappie.
The PIB completed its investigation into Officer Vappie on March 10, according to the consent decree monitor. However, when the monitor requested a copy of the report, the NOPD refused to send it over, which the monitor says is required.
The report stated that the NOPD took the position that the PIB investigation into Vappie was not required to be sent because it was not a serious misconduct complaint investigation. However, the monitor disagrees since the investigation focused on alleged payroll fraud.
The NOPD eventually shared a copy of the report with the consent decree monitor on April 3.
“It’s disturbing to see this in writing by the police consent decree monitor,” said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Several key parts of the report focused on the actions of the city attorney’s office, including potential legal conflicts and the inadvertent release of audio recordings of the Vappie investigation. In one case, the monitor cited an instance when the city attorney visited the PIB to monitor an NOPD interview with Officer Vappie.
“Situations like this can create the perception that City Hall is attempting to intimidate interviewees or investigators or otherwise interfere in a PIB investigation,” the monitor wrote in a 44-page report.
“If this was a priority case, why wasn’t the city attorney’s office there for every interview?” Goyeneche asked. “Keep in mind that the leak of all of the recordings wasn’t by PIB, it was by the city attorney’s office that had access to these. So if the city attorney’s office is important in trying to build this case, why weren’t they there during every interview? Why were they there only for the second interview of Officer Vappie? Who requested that was that PIB? Or was that the city attorney’s influence?”
“Requesting those recordings from PIB prior to the conclusion of the investigation created a risk of an inadvertent breach as well as an appearance of impropriety,” the monitor wrote.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Officer Vappie’s unusual reassignment under internal investigation
Cantrell’s security team lacks written policies, chain of command, audit finds
‘Incredibly disappointed;’ Vappie’s attorneys say recording leak compromised investigation
The report also criticized the PIB for failing to implement the protections it promised. The monitor stated that because of the public and media focus on the Vappie investigation and the fact that the mayor would likely be a material witness in the investigation herself, the NOPD should have taken extra precautions to protect the integrity and avoid any appearance of impropriety.
The report mentioned Fox 8′s stories on Vappie showing potential payroll fraud and Vappie and the mayor spending hours of the workday together inside the city-owned Upper Pontalba apartment. The monitor said the stories raised a number of questions regarding the operation of the executive protection team and the actions of Vappie.
The monitor also questioned the efficiency of the executive protection team, pointing out that members were being paid to work while the mayor was out of town.
“At a time when NOPD has vocally complained about its lack of officers, it is quite inefficient to have multiple days when 1-2 additional officers are available to perform patrol work but they are not performing patrol work,” the report states.
The report stated that the PIB is not yet in compliance with the requirements of the consent decree and has never been in compliance in some areas and has experienced material backsliding in others.
“So the monitor has documented that the police department has regressed in their compliance with respect to the consent decree. And this report documents PIB’s regressions with compliance. The last audit that was conducted in 2019, compared with the most recent audit, showed that the police department had fallen out of compliance with 16 paragraphs. That’s backsliding,” Goyeneche said. “And the mayor is complaining that the consent decree is going on and taking too long. But when PIB is not complying with the consent decree, and the Vappie case is a specific example of non-compliance with the consent decree, not only does it raise questions about the integrity of the investigation, but also explains the problems with the federal judge with respect to the consent decree, because protocols weren’t followed in the Vappie case. And this report documents numerous other a lack of compliance on the part of PIB in fact, falling out of compliance after achieving compliance in several paragraphs.”
The NOPD leadership signed off on the report six days after the PIB completed its investigation, but instead of the interim superintendent reviewing it, a deputy chief signed on her behalf and agreed with the findings.
See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include the headline.
Copyright 2023 WVUE. All rights reserved.