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Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- New Orleans Police Department Lt. Jimmie Turner, Jr., who heads the homicide department, walks between Orleans Criminal District Court and the Orleans District Attorney's Office after a hearing and indictment of Cardell Hayes for the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith.

The commander of the New Orleans Police Department's homicide squad has been sidelined following an internal complaint accusing him of unwelcome touching of subordinates and of fostering a hostile workplace that allegedly included racially and sexually charged comments directed at detectives, according to four police sources familiar with the complaint.

Lt. Jimmie Turner has been reassigned pending an investigation by the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau.

Detectives within the unit said they were made aware of Turner's reassignment late last week. They said they believed he has been transferred to the 7th District, which patrols New Orleans East.

In a statement Tuesday, NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell confirmed that Turner has been transferred to desk duty outside the homicide unit pending the outcome of an internal investigation, but he didn't specify where he would be working. 

"The NOPD takes all allegations of this nature very seriously," Tidwell said. "We were made aware of the allegations against Lt. Turner on Friday of last week, and to protect the integrity of the investigation and any potential victims or witnesses, Lt. Turner has been reassigned to administrative duties outside of the homicide unit, pending the outcome of the investigation."

Turner declined comment Tuesday through a spokesman for the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge.

Tidwell's statement did not say who is serving as commander of the unit in Turner's absence. 

The complaint against Turner, who is black, was filed by Sgt. Peter Hansche, who until recently led one of four teams of homicide detectives in the unit. Hansche, who is white, also serves on the board of the Police Association of New Orleans, one of the city's largest police officer groups.

Hansche's complaint accuses Turner of a pattern of inappropriate sexual and racial comments as well as touching, dating back at least a year and directed at male detectives in the unit. The complaint identifies a handful of officers who allegedly witnessed Turner's misconduct, one of the sources said.

The Advocate has not viewed Hansche's complaint, but multiple police sources described its contents. They said the complaint accuses Turner of violating an NOPD policy prohibiting "discrimination or sexual harassment."

Reached Tuesday, Hansche declined to comment on the complaint. 

Turner has led the department's homicide unit since NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison appointed him to the post in July 2015.

The complaint follows a roughly year-long period that has seen both turbulence and achievement for the homicide unit, long considered an elite squad at the forefront of the city's fight against a murder rate that persistently ranks among the nation's worst.

A steady pace of killings left the homicide unit drowning in new cases during the first half of 2017. Its clearance rate — the percentage of cases that police believe they have solved through an arrest or a special circumstance such as a prime suspect's death — slid further after two years of declines.

But the pace of killings eased significantly in the second half of the year, and the detectives in the unit boosted their clearance rate. An NOPD tally said the homicide unit closed 2017 by clearing just over half of the year's killings.

Turner, meanwhile, has been a lightning rod. When the clearance rate slid, a feud between Turner and some of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's top lieutenants erupted in public. At the time, some rank-and-file detectives grumbled to reporters about low morale and shaky leadership in the homicide unit.

But Harrison stuck by Turner, and as the clearance rate rose, NOPD brass cited the lieutenant's leadership as one of the reasons.

Hansche's complaint is not the first time Turner has been accused of misconduct. He and another policeman were jailed in 1993 on allegations that Turner raped a woman they both had arrested, but the District Attorney's Office ultimately declined to pursue charges against the two officers.

A Police Association of New Orleans spokesman said at the time that forensic evidence failed to support the woman's assertion that she was assaulted, according to an article in The Times-Picayune. 

Staff writer Matt Sledge contributed to this report.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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