Justice Department: Evidence of Systematic Failures and Misconduct by New Orleans Police

The Department of Justice released a report criticizing the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Thursday, identifying “systematic failures” and misconduct that violated the Constitution including victimization of black and gay citizens, serious failures to properly investigate certain crimes such as sexual assaults, and the use of excessive force.

These were the findings of a 10-month DOJ review that, following years of criticism and complaints, came about by request of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for an independent investigation of NOPD’s systems and operations to try and help tackle issues of misconduct.

From the DOJ press release

The investigation, announced on May 15, 2010, was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Justice Department’s thorough and independent investigation involved extensive community engagement and in-depth review of NOPD practices.


The Justice Department participated in more than 40 community meetings with various advocacy groups, civic leaders and public officials. The investigation also involved thorough review of a wide range of NOPD documents, as well as ride-alongs and other opportunities to observe police activity.


The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including:

* Use of excessive force

* Unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests

* Biased policing, including:

* Racial and ethnic profiling and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination;

* A systemic failure to provide effective policing services to persons with limited English proficiency; and

* A systemic failure to investigate sexual assaults and domestic violence.

The Justice Department also found a number of long-standing and entrenched practices within NOPD that caused or contributed to these patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct, including:

* Failed systems for officer recruitment, promotion and evaluation

* Inadequate training

* Inadequate supervision

* Ineffective systems of complaint intake, investigation and adjudication

* A failed “Paid Detail” system

* Failure to engage in community oriented policing

* Inadequate officer assistance and support services

* Lack of sufficient community oversight

“For far too long, the New Orleans Police Department failed to adequately protect the citizens of the city. This was a result of its failure to ensure respect for and adherence to the Constitution,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “Today’s findings should serve as a foundation not only to rebuild the police department, but to help restore the community’s trust in fair, just and effective law enforcement.”

“Our findings show that the problems facing the NOPD are wide ranging, systemic, and deeply rooted in the culture of the Department,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Our team looks forward to working with the people of New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu, Chief Serpas and his officers in creating and implementing a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform.”


The Justice Department will work with the NOPD and the city of New Orleans to address the violations of constitutional and federal law by developing and implementing comprehensive reforms that will reduce crime, ensure respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, and restore public confidence in the NOPD. The NOPD must develop and implement new policies and protocols and train its officers in effective and constitutional policing. In addition, the NOPD must implement systems to ensure accountability, foster police-community partnerships, improve the quality of policing to all parts of the city and eliminate unlawful bias from all levels of policing decisions.

This investigation was not related to any ongoing federal criminal prosecutions of NOPD officers.

The Washington Post reports on several incidents in which New Orleans police have been subject to criminal investigations, including incidents regarding the unlawful killing of members of the public. The death of Henry Glover is one such case. His burned body was found in a car near a police station following Hurricane Katrina. As of June last year, three officers had been convicted. You can read more here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attriubtion License, with thanks to Jane Plantain.


Ray C.
Past Member 6 years ago

After reading the report the police are not fit enough to called Police nor are fit enough to wear the Uniform, to make the good policeman it takes years of training, which includes speaking the the people in the area where they are going to Police,

In Britain the Police go of their way to commuicate with the Public yes we did have a problem a few weeks back but this is now been addressed, the Police in the US are all the same put the Uniform on with Guns and they think they are a Law unto themselves, they have has much idear
of how to Police the Neighbourhood as the criminals in the street, the system is wrong the training is wrong, and their personality is wrong, there is no Police force or Police Departments in the US, they are just thugs dressed up in Uniforms hoping the Uniform will protect them, they breach almost every decents person huma right and they get away with it, why, because you are letting them thats why.

Fa'izah J. A.
Jauharah Andrews6 years ago

Reports that came out following Hurricane Katrina - both in the media and from independent sources - made it clear that there was a lot of racially motivated misconduct. Examples of the police stopping Blacks who were taking things for survival yet letting Whites go; non-Whites being stopped and questioned for being outside and in neighborhoods where they didn't seem to belong or being prevented from helping others who were in need.

I have no doubt that even evacuation and rescue efforts didn't begin in the most critical areas because they happened to be minority populated areas.

We cannot hide from it nor deny it; racism is alive, well and on the rise in the US. The only thing we can do is fight against it but even that is becoming increasingly more difficult as our civil rights and liberties remain infringed upon.

Bruce S.
Bruce S6 years ago

LOL - The Justice Department just noticed the police problem in New Orleans

Ruby W.
Ruby W6 years ago

My goodness! Like there needed to be more reasons to avoid the poor Gulf region! I am saddened by the reality of the Gulf states' inability to achieve any quality of life in any area. How awful!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S6 years ago

New Orleans would be a typical third world city if Louisiana were to become an independent country - another banana republic, along with several other US red states & cities. This is nothing new & should be no surprise to anyone who is informed & aware, but we'll see if this study actually does anything to change the picture in this city famed for its corruption & bias.

Now let's see the Justice Dept do a similar investigation on the LAPD, Miami & just about every police dept in Florida, another borderline thirld world country. There are so many black holes of corruption & discrimination. Then it would be interesting to do a comparison of corruption & lack of constitutional respect between the Red States & the Blue States. We have a pretty good idea which would prove the worst ones, don't you?

Marcheal G.
Marcheal G6 years ago

Rule Of Law-no one is above the law.

Ellen G.
Ellen G6 years ago

Hate to say it but police EVERYWHERE think they are above the law, protect one another and break laws themselves with no punishment that they arrest others for doing. They not only think they can get away with not following the law, they can since they protect one another. We need to do a better job at holding them responsible for their own actions then maybe we will have dependable honest police.

Fa'izah J. A.
Jauharah Andrews6 years ago

This isn't a situation unique to New Orleans; every law enforcement entity is guilty of similar. Bias is alive and well in the United States.

Christine S.

Katrina was horrible and stressful, so I could understand if there were some instances of police misconduct- but it sounds like there were way too many problems to explain away so easily...