Huge reforms required for New Orleans police

Reforms Eric Holder will announce are expected to be some of the broadest and strictest ever imposed on a police department

By Michael Kunzelman
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. attorney general on Tuesday will announce sweeping reforms of New Orleans's long-troubled police department.

A person with direct knowledge of the plan said the agreement between the Justice Department and the city will be signed and filed in federal court. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been made public.

The reforms Eric Holder will announce are expected to be some of the broadest and strictest ever imposed on a police department.

The New Orleans department has been plagued by decades of corruption and mismanagement. It came under renewed scrutiny after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the Justice Department for the review in 2010. A spokesman for Landrieu wouldn't comment.

Tuesday's announcement comes on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to New Orleans, where he will deliver a speech at the National Urban League's annual conference Wednesday.

Last year, the Justice Department issued a scathing report that said New Orleans police officers have often used deadly force without justification, repeatedly made unconstitutional arrests and engaged in racial profiling.

At the time, Landrieu said many problems identified by the report were exposed by Katrina but existed for years before the storm plunged the city into chaos.

The Justice Department's civil rights division also launched criminal probes focusing on police officers' actions after Katrina. The investigations resulted in charges against 20 officers, including five who were convicted last year of civil rights violations related to deadly shootings of unarmed residents less than a week after the storm's landfall.

The officers were sentenced to prison terms of up to 65 years. Five others pleaded guilty to engaging in a cover-up plot that included a planted gun, phony witnesses and fabricated reports.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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