Criminal Justice Reform
Hurricane Katrina ravaged the troubled New Orleans criminal justice system destroying facilities such as police stations, courts, jails and critical files and records. Before the storm, New Orleans led the nation in its murder rate and local incarceration rate. It was clear the system was ripe for reformation.
In the years since Hurricane Katrina, major efforts have been undertaken to transform the New Orleans Police Department, reduce the local jail population, and employ restorative justice policies.
In 2012, the NOPD and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into an expansive Consent Decree, reflecting a shared commitment to effective constitutional and professional law enforcement. The NOPD then went a step further, becoming one of the first departments nationally to outfit police officers with body-worn cameras in 2014. The city also has an Independent Police Monitor that operates in the Office of the Inspector General.
The Orleans Parish Prison is also under a federal Consent Decree, while the juvenile detention facility, the Youth Study Center, has undergone major reforms. In recent years, the city’s criminal court system has implemented pretrial services, electronic monitoring and alternatives to detention that focus on risk. NOPD also began issuing summonses in lieu of arrests for minor offenses to reduce pressure on the jail population and to ensure a focus on violent criminals. These efforts have significantly reduced the local jail population, now just one third of what it was pre-Katrina.
New Orleanians have recognized that law enforcement alone cannot combat the city’s violence problem. That’s why in 2012 Mayor Mitch Landrieu launched a comprehensive plan to reduce murder: NOLA FOR LIFE. The comprehensive strategy includes a series of initiatives to prevent shootings through prevention, intervention and rehabilitation, such as initiatives like Midnight Basketball, Ceasefire New Orleans, trauma response in schools, summer jobs program, workforce re-entry services, and social services for African-American men and boys. Federal, state, and local law enforcement created a new Multi-Agency Gang Unit to target our city’s most violent criminals. Better cooperation between the District Attorney’s office and police department is netting higher clearance and conviction rates. As a result, 2014 saw the lowest number of murders in 43 years.
Key Recovery Data
Individuals from 11 gangs indicted since 2012 through the Multi-Agency Gang Unit
At-risk individuals have taken advantage of support services as part of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy
With zero murders reported from January to April 2015 in the CeaseFire Central City target area
Restorative circles held in public schools to promote conflict resolution
Number of murders in New Orleans in 2014
Improvements to the force include:
New police cars since 2013
Brand new facilities either recently opened or under construction
Body-worn cameras currently in use
Pay raise for officers since 2014