Warren Montgomery, who took office as district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District last year with promises to reform the north shore office, is changing another vestige of longtime District Attorney Walter Reed’s administration: the badges issued to assistant district attorneys and investigators.
Montgomery’s office said Friday that it is issuing new badges and identification cards designed to protect the public from potential misuse.
“When we came into office, we realized there was incomplete record-keeping for individuals who received badges and IDs,” Montgomery said in a prepared statement. “We are addressing that.”
District Attorney’s Office badges became controversial in 2014 when Walter Reed’s brother, Richard Reed, flashed an honorary badge when he was stopped by police. Officers had responded to a call about a disturbance at The Chimes restaurant involving an inebriated woman, and Richard Reed had put her in the back seat of his car.
At the time, Walter Reed’s office described the badge as a keepsake that conferred no authority, but Richard Reed nevertheless returned it to the office. A week after the stop, he was arrested and accused of groping the woman.
He’s scheduled for trial March 14 on four felony counts: sexual battery, second-degree kidnapping, intimidating a witness and public intimidation.
After Richard Reed was stopped, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said Walter Reed was trying to recall other honorary badges. But it’s unclear how many were issued and how many might remain in circulation.
The New Orleans Advocate submitted a public records request seeking information on who had received badges from January 2009 through June 16, 2014. But administrative assistant Gerald Reed said the office did not have such a list and ignored a follow-up request for more information.
Montgomery is scrapping the old system entirely and has collected old badges and identification cards held by staff members.
The new badges are oval rather than shield-shaped, and they are individually numbered. They have a photo of the person to whom the badge has been issued.
The cards will expire annually and must be renewed.
A news release acknowledges that some old badges might still be around and says the public “should be aware that if someone flashes a district attorney’s badge that does not contain a number, it is invalid.”
Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for Montgomery, said the office does not plan to issue any honorary badges.
Honorary badges have a long history in the New Orleans area, but good-government groups have criticized them, saying they are sometimes used to get out of traffic citations or other run-ins with the law.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.