NEW ORLEANS - The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana has today sponsored a lawsuit against New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley for denying access to public records. It stems from repeated requests over a number of months to get documents regarding racial profiling issues and excessive use of force complaints filed with the New Orleans Police Department.
"The ACLU simply wants to know if the NOPD is living up to its policy to refrain from racial or bias-based profiling and only use the minimum force necessary to arrest and control suspects taken into custody," said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "Complaints received in our office and media reports indicate the need for a public accounting from those in uniform who have had a motto of 'To Protect and Serve.'"
A formal request for public records as authorized by law and the Louisiana Constitution was made on April 6, 2006. It asked for documents related to any lesson plans and classes taught regarding biased-based profiling. In addition the ACLU sought statistical summaries of all profiling complaints submitted to the Public Integrity Division, which are due annually on February 21 to the Superintendent of Police. Those concerns in turn may prompt recommendations for internal changes in operations and are due to the Superintendent by May 1 of each year.
To address excessive use of force, the request asked for: public records pertaining to such incidents over a twelve month period; documents on disciplinary records of NOPD officers cited for excessive use of force or similar problems; the number of NOPD officers arrested or prosecuted criminally for such incidents, and relevant Internal Affairs documents and reports. Lastly, the ACLU wants all documents related to any amount paid by the City of New Orleans in settlement of lawsuits alleging excessive force by NOPD officers.
"We regret having to file this lawsuit, but Chief Riley and the City Attorney's office failed repeatedly to respond as the law requires," Cook goes on to say. "A free and democratic nation demands that the rule of law apply to all of its inhabitants, especially the police who have the power to take away life and liberty."
The case was filed in Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, which should hold a hearing within 10 days. ACLU Cooperating Attorney Al Shapiro of Baton Rouge represents plaintiff Katie Schwartzmann, who also serves as Staff Attorney for the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana.
The ACLU of Louisiana, celebrating its 50th anniversary as an affiliate of the National ACLU, defends individual rights as found in the United States and Louisiana Constitutions. Those rights include, among others, freedom of speech, and religion, the right to counsel and a fair trial, the right to hold personal beliefs that are nobody else?s business, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of race or sex.
To see the petition filed September 19, click here.