Mayor Threatens Mardi Gras 2023 Cancellation, Blames NOPD Consent Decree

Photo Credit: Jenn Bentley, Big Easy Magazine

Attempts to end the federal consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department have been a recurring theme throughout Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s tenure. However, in the past few weeks, Cantrell has gone on the offensive, even as a federal judge has raised concerns that the city’s policing practices may be sliding backward.

“Numerous positions critical to compliance with the consent decree have remained unfilled, sometimes for months,” US District Court Judge Susie Morgan said. “This lack of personnel may mean that several provisions of the consent decree have fallen out of compliance.” In addition, Morgan noted that she sees “little innovation from the city or the NOPD in response to” what she views as a citywide crisis.

Over the past week, Cantrell has taken to blaming the federal consent decree – which has been in place since 2013 – for the recent staffing shortages at the NOPD. At a town hall on Thursday, Cantrell said that Mardi Gras 2023 may be canceled, and placed the blame squarely on the consent decree for the shortages.

“First of all, if we don’t have adequate police, it could mean that there will be no Mardi Gras. That’s a fact,” Cantrell said. “We have to ease the level of separations that we have seen and particularly align with burdens of this consent decree that that was the No. 1 piece. So it really is about retention.”

But NOPD exit interviews paint a different picture. In exit interviews originally obtained by the New Orleans Advocate | Times-Picayune, officers leaving the force cited issues such as internal politics, cronyism, a lack of support from NOPD management, run-down gear, and other issues as their reasons for leaving.

“I refuse to work for an agency in which I can be punished for upholding my oath and the rule of law,” said former NOPD officer Gregory Rotton in a letter to the department. Rotton claimed his superiors pressured him to charge 19-year-old Lamar Logan of attempting to rob a federal agent in the Treme before crashing his vehicle into the Sea Cave arcade bar on St. Claude Avenue. Rotton’s own investigation “concluded that the conduct observed [by the agent] amounted to a suspicious person incident at most,” but his superiors insisted he write an armed robbery arrest warrant instead. Rotton was later pulled from his unit and investigated “concerns” about his commitment to his unit.

That incident is now being investigated by the Independent Police Monitor.

“Suggesting that officers want the consent decree to end so they can return to policing the way they did before 2013 is wrong, and dangerous,” Judge Morgan wrote.

Morgan said she will hold monthly public hearings in her courtroom “until NOPD and the city demonstrate to the court that they have a strong plan to fix the problems” at the department.

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