NOPD defends resistance to turning over Vappie investigation to Federal Consent Decree Monitor

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 4:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - One day after the Federal Consent Decree Monitor criticized the New Orleans Police Department for failing to hand over a copy of the Public Integrity Bureau investigative report of officer Jeffrey Vappie, the NOPD says the monitor is wrongfully interpreting the guidelines of the consent decree.

The monitor maintained that since the investigation into Vappie included questions about possible payroll fraud, which would be criminal, the investigation should have been turned over. The monitor said the investigation fell under the umbrella of “serious misconduct,” which guidelines state is relevant to report to the Consent Decree monitor.

Related: Federal monitor raises concerns about Vappie investigation leaks, NOPD’s compliance with consent decree

In a statement Thursday, the NOPD disagreed, saying the Vappie investigation didn’t involve “criminal misconduct,” “untruthfulness, or giving false statements.”

Head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission Rafael Goyeneche says if Vappie lied on his timesheets, that would fall under the category of untruthfulness, which would also be considered serious misconduct.

“They define one of the misconduct complaints that qualifies as truthfulness or false statements. So, this is an administrative investigation, and it deals with his duties that were performed, and so, it’s getting into whether or not he made any untruthful or false statements,” Goyeneche said.

The NOPD did eventually turn over a copy of the report in early April. That completed PIB investigation shows the Deputy Superintendent of the PIB signed the report, then signed it again, on the signature line of Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork.

The NOPD says that is standard practice and that Woodfork did not review the investigation before it was signed for her. Goyeneche said because the Vappie investigation had so much attention from city leaders and the media, he would have expected the superintendent to be briefed.

“So, there is precedent for the superintendent to allow someone to sign on their behalf. But this is a high-level investigation that impacts the Mayor of the City of New Orleans. And I think it is something that the superintendent should make the time to review and concur with rather than just assigning her signature authority to someone else without her being briefed on it,” Goyeneche said.

The NOPD says the policy of signing for the superintendent has been used for years, but the department will now reexamine the practice to determine if it should be stopped.

The NOPD also disagreed with the Consent Decree Monitor’s suggestion that investigators should have obtained Vappie’s cell phone as part of the investigation. NOPD claimed that would have violated Vappie’s Fourth Amendment rights.

However, Goyeneche said the Fourth Amendment only applies to criminal charges, and since Vappie indicated to investigators that he communicated with Mayor Cantrell on his cell phone, the device could have contained information relevant to the Public Integrity Bureau’s investigation.

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