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New Orleans bringing in more than 100 outside deputies to help NOPD with Mardi Gras parades

Katelyn Umholtz
A float rolls down St. Charles Avenue during the Zulu parade on Fat Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

The City of New Orleans will pay to bring in 150 deputies from parishes across the state to help the New Orleans Police Department maintain “peace and order” along parade routes during the Mardi Gras season.

City officials say the additional police power is needed to help an understaffed NOPD deal with the parade routes recently restored to their traditional lengths.

The officials said the deputies would be briefed on NOPD policies but did not directly address whether the outside officers would be required to abide by a long-running federal consent decree in place to enforce constitutional policing mandates on the New Orleans force.

The city entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office to recruit deputies from outside law enforcement agencies to work Mardi Gras details. The entire cost is expected to be around $1 million, with a maximum of $950,000 going toward 100 to 150 deputies — equivalent to 11 to 16 percent of NOPD’s commissioned force of about 930 — to work 10 hours on nine parading days. The city expects 40% of these deputies will come from within the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to the agreement.

At a press conference Monday (Jan. 30), interim police Superintendent Michelle Woodfork said on the smaller parade days there could be 100 officers brought in from across the state and up to 200 on bigger days, though the contract with the Sheriff’s Office only commits the city to pay for 150. They are reaching out to law enforcement agencies as far away as Shreveport, she said.

Deputies will be paid $50 per hour, with the rate increasing to $75 per hour on Mardi Gras Day. They will also receive a $64 per diem and a mileage reimbursement of 65.5 cents per mile. The city will provide lodging to deputies who travel from more than 35 miles away.

The Sheriff’s Office provided Verite a template contract to be used to ink agreements with outside agencies for the work. It does not require deputies from other departments to follow NOPD policies, instead saying that they must abide by the policies and procedures of their home agencies and general standards of conduct for law enforcement officers.

Asked whether deputies brought in from outside agencies would be subject to policies — covering procedures for stops and searches, arrests and use of force, among other areas — developed by the NOPD following the 2013 adoption of the sweeping federal consent decree, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Woodfork would be “galvanizing all law enforcement officers that plan to work in the city of New Orleans to ensure that everyone is on the same page relative to policy, procedures.”

Woodfork said the arrangement was reviewed by the city Law Department, the mayor’s chief administrative officer and expects it will also be reviewed by the consent decree monitors.

“I think it’s going to be perfectly fine,” she said.

Jonathan Aronie, who leads the team of federally appointed monitors overseeing the consent decree on behalf of a federal judge, said he could not comment. The consent decree requires him to seek approval from the parties to the agreement — the city and the U.S. Department of Justice — before commenting to the media. He said the city does not allow him to speak to the press.

Though the template contract doesn’t contain language requiring outside deputies to follow NOPD policies, in what will likely be welcome news to civil rights advocates, the contract between the city and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office requires the city to provide at least $50,000 to secure body cameras for detailed deputies, and pay for the “recording, uploading and storage of all video captured by those cameras.”

Officers from outside agencies must have completed basic training with at least two years of experience and cannot have been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a felony within the last five years, according to the agreement.

Detailed deputies will provide crowd control as well as “support services” for arrests made by New Orleans police. Though contracted by OPSO, the deputies will be expected to abide by the “laws, rules, regulations, supervision, discipline and authority” of the sheriff’s office at which they are currently employed, according to the agreement.

Sheriffs that provide deputies for the Mardi Gras details will be freed from all liability, the contract states. The Orleans Parish sheriff will defend them from any “claims for damages for injury to person or property caused by the fault, negligence or intentional conduct of the participating” deputies when acting under the terms of the agreement. This does not extend to actions considered to be gross negligence or willful misconduct.

This article first appeared on Verite and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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