The city's sheriff, its district attorney and the head of one of its two main police unions are siding with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry against New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the debate over a small but controversial anti-crime task force.
All three men have written letters of support for the task force that Landry has dispatched into New Orleans in recent months to fight violent crime.
Landrieu disputes the authority of the attorney general’s agents to act as police officers in New Orleans without permission from the city. He has charged that Landry’s task force is putting officers at risk by failing to coordinate with the New Orleans Police Department.
Although the task force has prompted a heated war of words, its profile and its results have been slender so far. The Attorney General’s Office said the group made 11 arrests in the final three months of 2016.
Another front in the dispute opened up this week, meanwhile, as the federal judge overseeing the Police Department’s reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice summoned employees of the Attorney General’s Office to her chambers for a meeting.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan met with lawyers from the AG’s Office on Thursday, Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said. He declined to comment on the meeting’s agenda, but it appears to have been prompted by Landry’s foray onto city streets.
Landry has derided the consent decree that Morgan oversees as a collection of “hug-a-thug” policies that prevent aggressive policing. The consent decree was put in place because of notorious instances of NOPD brutality and misconduct, including the Danziger Bridge shootings.
The reform agreement is legally binding only on the NOPD, not on other agencies that do law enforcement within the city, such as the State Police. But NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison told Landry in a letter last week that “any policing conducted within New Orleans must strictly comply with the mandates of the consent decree.”
The officials backing Landry’s task force cited the Police Department’s manpower shortage and the city's high levels of violent crimes in the letters released Thursday.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the Police Association of New Orleans have all had pitched political battles of their own with Landrieu’s administration in recent months. But their letters allow Landry to point to local support for his initiative.
“We need all hands on deck if we are going to turn the corner on this public safety crisis,” Cannizzaro said. “I have never seen an attorney general who takes not only an active interest in the public safety of this city, but who also is willing to devote his precious government resources to accomplish the mission of making our streets safer.”
Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, called the city’s complaints about a lack of coordination “both frivolous and specious.”
“The variety of uniforms worn by officers invited to work in New Orleans has always been quite varied and has never proven to be an issue of concern,” Glasser said. “Further, the degree of coordination that is implied to be in place for other agencies is exaggerated.”
The city’s other major police union, on the other hand, has expressed reservations about Landry’s task force.
Donovan Livaccari, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, said he would welcome the agents if there were better communication between them and city police.
“I think their operation here without communication with the New Orleans Police Department is potentially dangerous. I’m not interested in making political statements out of it. Communication is essential in law enforcement,” he said.