Court says Vappie investigation violated consent decree, spurs remedial plan from Kirkpatrick
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Federal Judge Susie Morgan says the New Orleans Police Department violated multiple aspects of the consent decree during the investigation of Officer Jeffrey Vappie.
In court documents filed on Nov. 1, Judge Morgan says 13 violations were found regarding the timeliness of the investigation, imposition of discipline, and notification of complaints.
A series of Fox 8 investigations found Officer Vappie, a member of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s executive protection team, spent extended hours both on and off the clock inside the city-owned Upper Pontalba Apartment with the mayor.
The NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau (PIB) opened an investigation following the revelations. The investigation ultimately sustained three violations committed by Vappie, and a city attorney said Wednesday that a “letter of reprimand” was issued to Vappie.
The investigation concluded Officer Vappie violated a “performance of duty” rule when he worked more than 16 hours and 35 minutes on several days.
Monitors have previously said by not investigating Officer Vappie for potential payroll fraud, the investigation was tainted from the beginning.
The investigation also failed to properly consider circumstantial evidence and the possibility that a relationship exceeding friendship could have existed between the Mayor and Vappie, monitors told Judge Morgan in June.
Prior to the court’s order, newly appointed NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick submitted a remedial action plan to address the compliance issues.
The plan outlines various changes, including providing guidance to the PIB to ensure that the Office of Consent Decree Monitor is informed of any criminal investigations involving NOPD members, enhancing training for PIB investigators on handling circumstantial evidence, sharing draft reports of PIB investigations with the Consent Decree Monitoring Team, and other changes related to the timeliness of investigations and transparency with the Consent Decree Monitoring Team.
“Anne Kirkpatrick just came from a city that’s been under a consent decree. She has experience with consent decrees,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “She recognizes it’s folly to think you can litigate their way out from under a consent decree.”
Consent Decree monitors say Kirkpatrick’s plan reflects a meaningful effort to rectify the areas where the NOPD was found to be in violation.
“What this signifies is the city’s position with respect to attempting to litigate their way out of the consent decree and denying that they were non-compliant with the consent decree has taken a 180-degree reversal,” Goyeneche said. “If there was not an accepted remedial action plan with respect to the Vappie investigation, the city would have been facing potentially severe fines.”
The court decided to defer any imposed sanctions, allowing the NOPD time to demonstrate its commitment to implementing Kirkpatrick’s plan.
“The judge had several days of evidence presented to her, she decided that the city’s position was wrong,” said Ronal Serpas, former chief of the New Orleans Police Department. “The city’s aggressiveness has not been just the Vappie matter. The city has been trying to tell the judge to stay in her lane. But the city’s been telling the judge: we’ll tell you what your lane is. That’s never going to work, and it didn’t work yet again.”
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