N.O. fires 3 officers for lying, cover-up

Three New Orleans police officers have been fired after internal investigations uncovered violations involving the department’s troubled paid detail program and the use of Tasers.

Eddie Polite, a 29-year veteran; Kevin Wheeler, a five-year veteran; and Juana Vera, a four-year veteran, were all fired Tuesday after Assistant Superintendent Darryl Albert determined they violated the department’s honesty and truthfulness policy. Another officer, Larry King, was suspended for five days in connection with the incident involving Wheeler and Vera.

Polite previously worked in the 7th District, while Wheeler, Vera and King worked in the 2nd District.

Wheeler and Vera were accused of participating in the shocking of an unarmed man and then lying about the incident. King is accused of aiding in the cover-up by failing to report the incident.

According to a news release, Wheeler and King responded to a report of a machete-wielding man on Oct. 18. The officers, who were partners, told their supervisors that they used their Tasers to subdue the man because he tried to attack them while armed. Vera tased the man once, and Wheeler tased him twice.

However, any time a Taser is used, a camera on the devices records the incident. Videos from the devices showed that the victim was not armed, nor did he pose a serious threat of bodily harm, the release said.

In addition to the truthfulness guidelines, Wheeler was found to have violated department rules about moral conduct, performance of duty and providing false reports. Vera violated rules about false reports and reporting misconduct, along with a rule about unauthorized force.

When asked if either man was being arrested on criminal charges in the incident, such as aggravated battery or filing a false police report, police spokeswoman Remi Braden said in an email that the police administrative investigation and subsequent termination ends this matter. “There was not a criminal question in this matter,’’ she said.

According to the release, Polite was caught sleeping in his personal vehicle while in uniform at the same time he was supposed to be working a security detail at an Uptown business. The NOPD was notified of the incident after photos surfaced of Polite sleeping in his car.

When questioned by an integrity-control officer, Polite failed to mention that he was supposed to be working a detail when he was caught sleeping. He was found to have violated departmental rules about performance of duty and moral conduct.

Serpas said the dismissals are part of his department’s continued push to make sure police behave honestly.

“Ever since I first came back to this department as chief, I’ve made it clear that under no circumstances will we tolerate untruthfulness and that anyone who is found to have been untruthful will be terminated,” Serpas said in a statement.

He also said that the department is still investigating the officers who supervised Wheeler and Vera because they failed to catch discrepancies in the police report filed by the two men.