FBI Agents To Monitor New Orleans Police

September 15, 2011

Two FBI agents will be stationed full time in the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau, the department and the FBI jointly announced this week. The agents, whose presence was requested by the NOPD, will investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department.

“I can’t tell you how important this is,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose office has recently led several high-profile prosecutions of NOPD officers. “We are in the process of groundbreaking reform.”

This is not the first time the FBI has stationed agents within the NOPD to fight corruption — in the mid-90s, it became the first department to ever have FBI agents in its public integrity department after a series of shocking scandals that peaked when Officer Len Davis ordered a hit on a civilian who filed a complaint after witnessing him beating a neighborhood teenager. The order was inadvertently recorded by federal officials who were investigating Davis’ involvement in a cocaine ring.

The FBI and NOPD halted the initial agreement in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit and the FBI redirected its resources towards Katrina-related fraud cases. But it’s a number of high-profile police shootings in the days immediately following Katrina — six of which FRONTLINE has been investigating with our partners at ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune — that have brought the FBI back to New Orleans.

This summer, five NOPD officers were convicted for their roles in shooting of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and covering up the crime. Two of the civilians died in the shootings and four were gravely wounded. An additional five officers have pleaded guilty in the case.

And two NOPD officers have been sentenced to at least 17 years in prison for their roles in shooting Henry Glover and then burning a parked car containing his body.

In March, the Justice Department released a scathing report that found “systemic violations of civil rights” by the NOPD.

In addition to the new FBI presence, the NOPD and the Justice Department are in the midst of working out a consent decree with the aim to foster “fundamental culture change” in the department. Upon its implementation, the consent decree is expected to govern the department for years.

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