The ACLU of Louisiana today urges Mayor Ray Nagin and Chief of Police Warren Riley to honor Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's request for the release of records of police misconduct and investigations. The Inspector General, operating under the law of the City of New Orleans, is not just entitled but obligated to monitor the police department. Mayor Nagin's refusal to honor his request lends support to the impression that the New Orleans Police Department believes itself to be above the law.
ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said: "The files that Mr. Quatrevaux requests are public records, that belong to the people of New Orleans, and they must be produced. Mayor Nagin cannot use the Danziger Bridge investigation as pretext to deny the Inspector General - who is accountable to the public - access to information about police activities."
Recent events, including the indictment and guilty plea of a New Orleans police officer who admitted to a cover-up after shootings on the Danziger Bridge, have severely undermined public confidence in the NOPD. Esman continued: "Producing the records would go a long way towards showing the people that New Orleans has no tolerance for police misconduct and abuse. Refusing to produce those records sends the message that we will continue to protect those who have been accused of abusing their offices."
NOPD Chief Riley's secrecy surrounding internal affairs investigation documents is nothing new. In 2006, in response to a series of complaints about NOPD officers' behavior, the ACLU of Louisiana requested access to internal investigation documents held by the Public Integrity Bureau. For months the NOPD refused to turn over the documents, forcing the ACLU to file a lawsuit. Once the ACLU was granted access to the documents, a review of those materials indicated that the Public Integrity Bureau often fails to conduct a meaningful or objective review of civilian complaints, highlighting the need for the Office of the Police Monitor, separate from the NOPD, to serve as a quality control check on P.I.B. investigations.
This week, the Office of Inspector General issued a request for applicants for the position of Police Monitor. With the upcoming inauguration of a new mayor, New Orleans will also have a new Chief of Police within a short time. Esman continued: "It's essential for New Orleans to have a police chief who is committed to independent civilian oversight, so that this kind of misconduct will truly become a thing of the past. In the meantime, New Orleans is entitled to release of all public records requested by its Independent Monitor, so that he can do his job of policing the police."
The ACLU case from 2007, called Schwartzmann v. Riley,may be read here .