NEW ORLEANS, LA – The local Fraternal Order of Police lodge is lobbying Mayor Mitch Landrieu for an increased role in ongoing police consent decree negotiations, pointing to caustic comments made by a high-ranking member of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s staff as evidence of the need for the police group’s inclusion in the process. In a letter sent to the mayor yesterday, the group argues that the recent controversy surrounding online postings and comments made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, a point person for Letten’s office in the negotiations, have heightened the “already high anxiety and concern” that New Orleans police officers have about the consent decree process.
A handful of city officials and contracted legal specialists have been locked for months in negotiations with a group from the U.S. Justice Department, including Perricone, over the landmark federal consent decree.
Officials had hinted that a decree was months away, but Landrieu said last week that the controversy surrounding Perricone may have poisoned matters. Letten has said the controversy will not delay any negotiations.
Perricone, under different anonymous online monikers, posted thousands of highly critical comments on NOLA.com. He routinely slammed the NOPD, as well as the mayor and local criminal justice officials. He is currently on leave from the office as an internal Justice Department investigation takes place.
Perricone was at the table during the consent decree negotiations. He also assisted in the production of the scathing Justice Department assessment of the NOPD, a precursor to the consent decree that was released a year ago this month. Perricone was credited particularly with coining the term, “aorta of corruption,” to describe the NOPD’s troubled off-duty paid-detail system.
The Fraternal Order of Police lodge has not been involved in these negotiations. The group, which represents more than 1,145 NOPD officers, has taken exception to many of the Justice Department’s findings. Now, it wants a seat at the negotiations table.
In the letter to the mayor, FOP attorney Claude Schlesinger writes: “The best way to obtain the cooperation of the rank-and-file is to involve them in the planning process for the consent decree. Their participation will add a level of legitimacy to the process to replace the mistrust that exists currently.”