The New Orleans Police Department’s problems with fighting crime are usually blamed on a lack of manpower. But the department faces challenges not only in the quantity of its officers but the quality of service they provide to the taxpayers who depend on them for protection.
That dilemma is all too evident in the dismal findings of an outside review of the NOPD’s investigations in its Special Victims Unit, which deals with sex crimes.
Among the revelations of the report from New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux:
- A 3-year-old child was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, but a NOPD detective saw nothing to warrant a criminal investigation.
- Another NOPD detective was assigned 11 simple rape cases but forwarded just one to the District Attorney’s Office, possibly because she didn’t think simple rape should be a crime.
- Yet another detective documented no results from a rape exam kit he said he submitted to State Police for testing, when the evidence never left the NOPD’s evidence room.
Victims and prosecutors have often complained that sex crimes aren’t vigorously investigated by the NOPD. Quatrevaux’s report lends stunning detail to those assertions, concluding that five detectives failed to document any follow-up investigations in the majority of cases assigned to them for the three years ending Dec. 31.
Apparently, their supervisors failed to hold them accountable for failing to justify filing 840 calls for service in the “miscellaneous” bin, leaving Quatrevaux’s office with nothing to review in those cases.
The detectives in question were first reassigned to patrol duty but have now been reassigned to desk duty. Some supervisors also have been removed from the unit.
Michael Harrison, the new NOPD superintendent, said the five officers whose investigations were reviewed face possible criminal charges.
The NOPD’s problems suggest a pervasive culture of corruption and incompetence — a reality underscored by the need for a federal consent decree meant to advance reform of the department.
Harrison must act swiftly and decisively to address this scandal, which is a discredit to those NOPD officers who serve with honor and diligence. Even more than additional boots on the ground, the NOPD needs the public’s trust to do its job effectively. That trust can’t exist when the city’s most vulnerable residents are given a cold shoulder by the officers sworn to protect them.