Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will continue to operate an electronic monitoring system for pre-trial defendants through the end of the month as talks continue over whether the New Orleans Police Department will take over the city-funded program.
Gusman last year said he wanted out of the program by Jan. 3, adding that he planned to return the ankle bracelets it uses to keep track of defendants to Omnilink, the program’s equipment provider. He later agreed to continue the monitoring through January, and more recently he approved a second extension through the end of this month.
City officials, intent on finding a new home for the program, have been weighing whether the understaffed Police Department has the resources to step in.
City Council members have lauded the public-safety benefits of the program, even after controversial cases involving criminal defendants committing new crimes while under electronic supervision. There were 66 adults and 12 juveniles enrolled in the program as of last month.
“The city requested a one-month extension of our agreement with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office to ensure continued electronic monitoring services through the end of February,” Brad Howard, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said in an email. “The city is still working with criminal justice agencies to develop a long-term plan for our electronic monitoring program, and we hope to finalize the plan with all parties by the end of the month.”
City Councilman Jason Williams said last month that the Police Department is the agency best suited to take over the job.
“The primary goal is to get the NOPD to execute this particular service,” he said at the time. “It’s important to the health of this community, so I would not want — and I don’t think anyone else on the council would want — to have any time period where it was not in service.”
The city also may hire a third-party vendor to run the program, as was the case under the administration of former Mayor Ray Nagin. But that approach ran into problems; the firm involved was faulted for taking too long to report supervision violations.
The electronic monitoring program has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months after a local youth breached the terms of his supervision in the hours before he and another teen allegedly shot to death a Domino’s pizza delivery driver.
Late last year, New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux published a report that faulted the program for poor record keeping and lax oversight on Gusman’s watch.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.