The cost of consent decree won't be cheap

Published: Jul. 25, 2012 at 5:11 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2012 at 5:11 PM CDT
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At a time when every city department faces budget cuts, questions loom as to where the money will come from to enact changes outlined in a new federal consent decree.

The program is expected to cost at least $11 million a year, and while it may be tough at first, justice department officials say it will eventually pay for itself.

From cameras in each car, to new training standards, to a new monitor, changing the culture of the NOPD won't be easy or cheap.

"We recognize the tough economic times, and the number is out there is not justices' it's the one the mayor announced," said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Roy Austin.  "You're going to have changes in use of force, your going to have changes in the data collected for stops, searches, arrests, and changes with respect to officer assistance," said Austin.

All officers are going to have to go through 40 hours of extra training.  Each car will be equipped with cameras, and a monitor will be hired to keep track of the progress. That office alone will cost a million dollars a year.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the reforms will pay for themselves.

"The better NOPD becomes, the better our crime picture, the more growth this city can sustain. This is truly an investment in the city," said Letten.

The 124-page consent decree also calls for the formation of a crisis intervention team to deal with mental health cases.

Federal grants are available to help defray some costs, but Austin said eventually reform will make policing less expensive.

"When you start investing, the city will make money. This will be a good investment in this city."

Mayor Landrieu insists the money will be found.

The New Orleans Police Department goes before the council's Criminal Justice Committee next month to explore ways of funding the consent decree reforms.

Ryan Berni with the mayor's office said that the costs include new personnel, technology and maintenance for car cameras, data storage improvements, and citizen satisfaction surveys.

He says over a five year period, the reforms are expected to cost the city a total of $55 million.