Sometimes it pays to read the final draft.
A New Orleans police group misfired Thursday in a searing broadside against Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson’s office over a highly critical report the office released this week on the NOPD’s probe into an officer’s killing of an unarmed man during a 2012 drug raid.
Trouble was, the critique by the Police Association of New Orleans was directed largely at errors that Hutson’s office took out after NOPD brass reviewed a draft of the long-awaited report.
At a televised news conference, PANO attorney Eric Hessler and the group’s president, police Capt. Michael Glasser, portrayed Hutson’s office as an incompetent purveyor of falsehoods guided by a slanted view that a “blue wall of silence” colored the internal probe into a drug raid and shooting that left Wendell Allen dead.
Hutson’s scathing report found that the NOPD leadership failed to take action against three officers who gave false statements about the raid. Much of the criticism fell on Sgt. Bruce Glaudi, the lead investigator, and the officer for whom Hessler and Glasser said they spoke Thursday.
Lionel “Lon” Burns, an attorney for Allen’s family, this week called for Glaudi to be fired and prosecuted based on the report’s findings.
Hessler lambasted Hutson’s office for claiming that Officer Eugene Cummings, who wore his own personal body camera during the raid, resigned under retaliatory pressure.
Cummings never resigned, Hessler said, and was working his usual 3rd District post on Thursday.
PANO also hammered what it said was Hutson’s finding that the NOPD failed to mention the results of key DNA analysis in its report on the shooting.
Both claims suggested “either blatant incompetence or just an intentional misrepresentation,” Hessler said. “I think that’s pretty clear when you dedicate two pages of your report to a resignation that never occurred.
“Where they came up with this stuff I don’t know. ... Maybe they need to hire a fact checker.”
Turns out, they had one: the NOPD itself, which received the draft report on June 29 and returned its comments on July 31.
Gone from the final report, released Tuesday, was any mention of Cummings resigning. Also gone was the criticism of failure to report DNA results.
Instead, that section now criticizes Glaudi for citing initial gunshot residue tests that came back positive on two adult witnesses in the house where Allen was shot, while neglecting to note that final test results were indeterminate.
Hutson’s final report concluded that “key video evidence was not initially collected; a witness’ statement was omitted from (the) final supplemental report; video of the incident, gunshot residue-test results and witnesses’ statements were misinterpreted; allegations were misstated during a witness interview; and the investigation stopped short of necessary follow-up.”
After learning of the mistakes in his earlier statements, Hessler stood by his broader criticism.
“Clearly when challenged (Hutson’s office) backed down,” he said. “They should back down on the rest of it, too. It’s equally inaccurate.”
Deputy Police Monitor Simone Levine, who authored the report, said the information on Cummings’ supposed resignation came initially from a deputy chief. “This came from the NOPD,” she said.
Hutson said the draft critique of the DNA analysis was “information we had corrected ourselves before it made it into a final report.”
Hutson’s office stood by its conclusion that officers were preoccupied with searching for a gun in the house when they knew the slain Allen didn’t have one.
In their news conference, Hessler and Glasser called that opinion bad Monday-morning quarterbacking, given that many people were in the house and a gun turned up stowed in a light fixture.
Hessler also said it was unfair for Hutson’s office to rely on Cummings’ video to conclude that “officers made no warnings to Wendell before they shot him and officers made no police announcement before they breached the Allen family home.”
Officers at the scene offered conflicting accounts on that point.
Joshua Colclough, the officer who killed Allen and is now serving a four-year prison sentence for manslaughter, said he didn’t recall a heads-up by police.
Hessler said Hutson’s office leapt to conclusions based on a video that started just seven seconds before police breached the door. He also criticized Hutson’s claim that Glaudi first ignored, then dragged his feet in retrieving, the video from Cummings, who wore a personal body camera.
Glasser accused Hutson’s office of conjuring up a police conspiracy at a time when the NOPD is under perhaps the most intense scrutiny of any police agency in the nation.
“They’ve got to create a problem to justify their existence,” Glasser said of Hutson’s office. “There aren’t bogeymen behind every tree.”
Almost since its inception in 2009, Hutson’s office has been criticized as ineffectual, while hamstrung by budget constraints and warring with Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office, under which the Independent Police Monitor’s Office operates.
The report on the fatal raid marked perhaps the most significant output to come from the office, and it drew a chilly response from NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, who said it was based upon an “incomplete review of data,” as well as “the incorrect assumption” that the officers did not give a warning before barging into the home.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.