A former New Orleans police officer’s attempt to get his job back failed after the city’s Civil Service Commission ruled that he could be fired for failing to report a “nickel bag” of marijuana he found on a suspect.
Jamal Kendrick, 46, was fired in July 2013 over the incident, which occurred a year before. But the three-year veteran’s troubles on the force extended far deeper: In March 2013, the District Attorney’s Office charged him with malfeasance in a separate incident in which he was caught on video hitting a handcuffed suspect.
Kendrick was acquitted of that charge in October 2013 after a trial, but after a long appeals process, the commission’s decision Tuesday means that he likely will not rejoin the force.
“As a police officer, the appellant is sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of the State of Louisiana. It is his duty to enforce the laws equally to all citizens. This he failed to do,” the commission wrote in its decision.
The New Orleans City Council reclassified marijuana possession as a municipal offense in 2010, meaning that police could enforce it with a summons rather than an arrest. In the years since, arrests for possession of all types of drugs in New Orleans have declined significantly along with the NOPD’s manpower.
The commission, however, backed the NOPD’s contention that Kendrick was not at liberty simply to ignore the marijuana.
Kendrick arrested a man on an outstanding warrant in August 2012. During the arrest, the commission said, he did not secure the marijuana, test it or note it in his police report. Instead, according to an internal investigation, he discarded it.
“It was a nickel bag, dirt weed, and it really didn’t look like enough to really test, and I was gonna give him a break on it,” Kendrick said in his defense.
But Kendrick’s act of leniency came back to bite him when the arrested man was overheard in jail bragging that his arresting officer did not charge him for the marijuana.
The District Attorney’s Office notified the NOPD of Kendrick’s lapse in August 2012. Two months later, he hit the handcuffed suspect. He was fired before he was cleared in the latter case.
Kendrick’s lawyer, Raymond Burkart III, did not respond to requests for comment on the commission’s decision.
Kendrick may appeal the commission’s decision to the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.