Federal judge denies city’s request to delay NOPD consent decree implementation

A federal judge on Friday denied a request from the city to delay implementing the consent decree that will govern the New Orleans Police Department.

The city requested a stay in the matter, arguing that beginning to implement the decree could “prejudice the city and perhaps hamper its ability to meet other financial obligations.”

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan in her ruling wrote that the city “fails to demonstrate that it is at risk of suffering irreparable harm if implementation of the consent decree is not stayed. The city and the NOPD must comply with the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States.”

And, she noted, any changes to the NOPD will cost the city money.

The city has argued that the U.S. Department of Justice was not forthcoming with the city in regard to the cost for the consent decree since the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, which is accused of constitutional violations, is also facing federal oversight. Both consent decrees are expected to cost the city tens of millions of dollars a year, something the Landrieu administration says it can’t afford.

Meanwhile, the city has requested to vacate the NOPD consent decree entirely. That matter remains separate and unresolved. The Justice Department has until Feb. 15 to answer the city’s allegations, at which point Morgan will decide the issue.

City Hall spokesman Ryan Berni on Friday said the request for a stay was “pretty simple.”

“(W)hile the NOPD consent decree is being litigated, we have asked the court not to force us to make any large expenditures related to the police consent decree because it is clear that both the prison and NOPD consent decrees cannot be paid for at this time without raising taxes or laying off or furloughing employees,” Berni said in a prepared statement. “It does not make sense to lay off or furlough police officers so the sheriff can hire more prison guards and pay them higher salaries.”

Berni said the NOPD has already begun to implement changes required by the consent decree and that “the DOJ itself has commended our reforms related to the K9 unit and homicide bureau, among others.”