Judge gives New Orleans two more weeks to chose police monitor

A federal judge granted New Orleans’ request to delay selection of an independent monitor of sweeping police reforms but cautioned officials that this will be the final delay.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan agreed to allow New Orleans officials and the Justice Department until May 28 to make a choice of the new consent decree monitor on Monday night after the city made the request on Friday.

Morgan’s decision came despite the Justice Department’s position that more time was unnecessary because city officials and justice officials were at an impasse in negotiations.

Federal and local officials are trying to decide between the firms of Sheppard Mullin and Hillard Heintze for the position of monitor.

In her ruling, Morgan wrote the city had shown “good cause” for “one final opportunity” to reschedule the decision, which was initially slated for May 1, then delayed to May 14. Morgan said the court has received a plethora of public comments arguing for a speedy resolution to the consent decree monitor, and she is not in favor of granting any additional delays.

“The court encourages the parties to work together as expeditiously as possible to select the best candidate to serve as monitor because the court favors a collaborative process where possible,” Morgan wrote.

The new hearing date is May 28.

New Orleans officials requested the additional delay because the city argued that it’s still gathering information about the two firms and recently received new information about the cost of their contracts.

However, the U.S. Justice Department argued that it discussed the proposals with the city repeatedly, even making a last-minute call to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and it does not appear the group’s will agree on a choice.

New Orleans officials have favored the Hillard Heintze group, citing the experience its members have working with big city police departments. One of the lead members of the group is former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard.

The Justice Department favors the Sheppard Mullin proposal, citing that group’s prior experience monitoring consent decrees and the lack of public outcry at the group’s proposal.

Hillard Heintze has been targeted by local critics for the group’s choice of local partners and for Hillard’s response to findings of police torture in Chicago.

Morgan has received several letters blasting Hillard, but the court also has received many glowing recommendations of the former chief.

On Monday, a citizen-watchdog group from Chicago joined the chorus of those expressing reservations about Hillard, claiming that he was not an agent of change in Chicago.