Department of Justice Investigation Reveals Racial, LGBT, and Gender-Biased Policing by the New Orleans Police Department

Categories: Civil Rights Enforcement, News

Use of excessive force, racial and ethnic profiling, and under-enforcement of violence against women are just a few of several constitutional and federal law violations made by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), according to a report recently released by the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

The Justice Department’s investigation of the NOPD, conducted from January 2009 to May 2010, reveals discrimination on various levels, including failure to investigate use of force, failure to develop policies against racial profiling and LGBT discrimination, and inability to hold officers accountable for questionable practices.

Key findings include:

  • Racial disparities exist in arrests of Whites and African Americans in all categories with particularly stark disparities in arrests between African-American youth and White youth. NOPD arrested 500 African-American males and eight White males under the age of 17 for serious offenses; 65 African-American females and one White female under the age of 17 for serious offenses;
  • Of the 27 instances in which NOPD officers intentionally discharged their firearms at people, all 27 subjects were African American;
  • In 84 percent of uses of force reviewed, the subject of force was African American; and
  • Of the sex offender registrants convicted of solicitation of a “crime against nature,” a statute reflecting anti-LGBT sentiment, 80 percent are African American.

The report also cites the NOPD’s gender-biased policing practices that did not provide substantial protection for women against sexual and domestic abuse, as well as the police department’s failure to create efficient access for communities of limited English proficiency.

The Justice Department provides recommendations for the NOPD, including the development and implementation of policies that address and prohibit discriminatory policing, collection and analysis of data on the race of subjects of law enforcement actions, and the establishment of community-oriented policing practices.

“Today’s findings should serve as a foundation not only to rebuild the police department, but to help restore the community’s trust in fair, just and effective law enforcement,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights recently released Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America, a report that more broadly documents instances of racial profiling. The report examines the use of racial profiling in the street-level context in which it originally arose, examines the newer context of counterterrorism, and the most recent context of immigration. Among other things, the report calls on Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, a federal statute that prohibits the practice of racial profiling in all contexts.