FAQs about the Independent Police Monitor
Why does New Orleans Need an Independent Monitor?
From the 1980’s to the mid 1990’s the New Orleans Police Department made national headlines for a variety of scandals including murders, rapes and robberies. A 1991 Justice Department report listed New Orleans as having the highest ranking of citizen complaints of police brutality in the country. The Justice Department threatened to bring civil actions against New Orleans for a pattern of rights violations by the NOPD. When our government was forced to clean up our police department, 110 officers were arrested, 117 were fired, 180 officers resigned while under investigation and 600 others were suspended. During this period of reform, New Orleans saw a 63% decrease in the murder rate, a 60% decrease in the rate of assaults and a 49% decrease in armed robberies.
Today we face similar circumstances as the bloody early 90’s. While our city is experiencing rampant violence, despite a drastically reduced population, we also suffer from a high number of incidences of in-custody shootings, police brutality and police misconduct. All of us suffer from this violence: our children, our elders, business owners, tourists, visitors, citizens and police. In a 2006 survey conducted by Safe Streets/Strong Communities, 2/3 of respondents stated that they did not trust New Orleans Police and would likely not report crimes or cooperate in investigations because of that distrust. 72% of those who had been stopped by the police reported being victimized by the officers, abuse ranging from being subject to antagonistic language to planting evidence, stealing property, conducting strip searches in public, and causing physical harm. More than half of all residents surveyed reported that they themselves had been harassed by the police at least once, with 71% of black men saying that they have experienced police harassment firsthand. New Orleanians across race and class lines, concerned by police brutality and theft of the public’s LIVES and safety, are experiencing a “Crisis of Confidence” in New Orleans Police Department.
Research shows that an Independent Monitor of a local police force can have a significant positive impact on public safety and public confidence in government. A Justice Department Report States: “Jurisdictions should establish a mechanism whereby a civilian entity may participate in reviewing the performance of the law enforcement agency.” Cities across the country have identified community oversight of the police as a best-practice in public safety policies. This means many cities have found that, unlike high incarceration rates and a brutal ‘zero-tolerance’ policing policy, cleaning up their police department WORKS and makes cities SAFER.
What does an Independent Police Monitor do?An IPM will:
The IPM will be a completely separate agency – separate from the NOPD, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office. Therefore it will be politically independent. The IPM’s quarterly report will be placed on the City Council’s agenda within two weeks of its public release for public comment and testimony. From Safe Streets’ perspective, this will not only bring more transparency to the department, but will give the general the tools it needs to identify obstacles to better public safety and solutions to violence, corruption, and a small number of rogue police officers ruining the reputation of the entire force and the confidence of the entire community.
Where else has it been used & what kind of success has it had?Over 100 other cities have some form of independent oversight of their police and those cities have had very good results. Just one example to demonstrate the impact an IPM can have is Los Angeles. Prior to hiring an IPM, the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department found only 6% of all complaints against the police to be credible, or “sustained,” by their PIB. After hiring an IPM, who improved the quality of internal investigations, their sustained rate increased to 22%. In 2004, Denver’s mayor, John Hickenlooper was a staunch advocate of Independent Police Oversight stating, “Effective and robust civilian oversight has to be a critical component of any law enforcement agency”. Three years later, after establishing an Independent Monitor, Denver experienced “improved officer morale, in part stemming from improvements in disciplinary procedures” and news articles directly credit their Independent Monitor with “streamline[ing] and quicken[ing] reviews of more minor citizen complaints and … [using] mediation to resolve conflict.”