Activity at Municipal Court returned to normal Tuesday after New Orleans police officers returned to three courtrooms from which they had been pulled a day earlier in favor of returning them to the streets as the Police Department tries to augment its depleted ranks.
Chief Administrative Judge Desiree Charbonnet said Police Superintendent Michael Harrison agreed to provide the officers using overtime funds until a long-term security plan for the court can be worked out.
The decision apparently ended a public showdown between the court and City Hall.
Harrison told Charbonnet last week that he was reassigning the four officers who provide security in each section of Municipal Court as part of a plan to move 22 officers from administrative or desk jobs at the NOPD and other agencies to the city’s streets.
Although the city said Charbonnet had agreed to the plan, she said Monday that the decision was too abrupt, with Harrison not telling her until Friday afternoon that the reassignments would be effective Sunday.
By the time Municipal Court opened Monday, the NOPD had agreed to keep only one officer there, leaving three of the four sections without security and, Charbonnet said, forcing her to close them out of safety concerns.
The judge said a city ordinance requires the Police Department to assign officers to the court.
By Tuesday morning, the NOPD had agreed to station one officer in each of the four sections of court for the morning and afternoon sessions using overtime dollars while a new plan for security is devised, said Tyler Gamble, a department spokesman.
Because the officers who are being posted at the courthouse are working in an overtime capacity, no patrols in the city’s neighborhoods will be affected, he said.
The city has called on the court to use constables in place of the officers, and Gamble said that idea still is being considered.
However, 1st City Court Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr. said Monday there’s no way he’ll be able to provide security at the courthouse — at least not immediately. Constables are not trained like police officers, he said, and most of their duties are civil, such as serving subpoenas.
While the NOPD still plans to remove the officers from the courthouse completely at some point, Charbonnet said Tuesday she is hopeful that another impasse will not happen in the near future as security discussions continue.
“I have faith he (Harrison) will provide coverage until the end of the year,” she said.
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