NEW ORLEANS, LA – A local police union is upset that the NOPD’s internal affairs unit won’t jail people with outstanding arrest warrants when those people come in to file complaints against officers. But police brass say doing so would discourage some folks with valid complaints from filing them.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to NOPD Public Integrity Bureau Chief Arlinda Westbrook, Fraternal Order of Police lawyer Donovan Livaccari writes that failing to arrest anyone wanted on a warrant would constitute neglect of duty for an officer on patrol. The policy wrongly creates one set of standards for internal investigators and another for cops on the street, he said.
“Neither the law or the rules and regulations of the police department are being applied fairly or consistently,” Livaccari added. “The message that is being sent … is, at best, confusing.”
NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden issued a response to Livaccari’s missive on Friday, stating that it is not the department’s policy “to check the records of complainants to determine if they are wanted.”
She added: “It is critical that the people of New Orleans know that we encourage them to come forward and lodge complaints if they believe they are justified. Those complaints will be investigated, and appropriate action (will be) taken.”
Raymond Burkart III, an FOP lawyer and spokesman, said Livaccari sent the message after learning that public integrity investigators either didn’t verify whether complainants had outstanding warrants, or knew they did and didn’t execute them. Livaccari wrote in his letter that he reviewed relevant law and procedures and did not find any provisions allowing “special dispensation for wanted subjects who wish to make complaints on police officers.”
Burkart said: “A warrant is not a request. It’s not an invitation. It’s a court order, and it’s mandatory.”
Livaccari’s letter requested clarification on NOPD’s policy on whether officers should:
- check the wanted status of people either filing PIB complaints or alleging that they are witnesses to them
- take law enforcement action against any complainants or witnesses who are wanted on warrants
- act against complainants or witnesses who voluntarily admit to illegal activities that haven’t been or are in the process of being investigated
- act against people who lie in complaints.
Braden said the department’s position against checking PIB complainants’ criminal records is part of NOPD’s focus on improving its relationship with city residents. “This partnership is vital in the department’s efforts to better serve the public,” she said.
Burkart isn’t buying it. “What they’re saying is, ‘We’re not going to enforce the law evenly and impartially,'” he said. “That’s not right when you’re telling the officers you have to enforce the law evenly and impartially.”
From The Times-Picayune