U.S. Begins Review Of New Orleans Police

Federal prosecutors announced Monday that they are reviewing the long-troubled New Orleans Police Department.

The move comes after Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the Justice Department to intervene earlier this month, saying the city's police force needed nothing less than a complete transformation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez said the investigation will include lawyers and nonlawyers with broad experience in police issues.

The Justice Department's civil rights unit will investigate whether the police engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination.

Federal authorities flew to New Orleans on Monday to describe the intensive effort. Police departments in Los Angeles, Detroit and Cincinnati have operated under similar scrutiny.

Perez, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said the level of cooperation already being displayed in New Orleans is high, and the consensus for change among city officials, including new police chief Ronal Serpas, is unprecedented.

Citing that broad consensus, Perez left open the possibility that court supervision could be avoided. But Landrieu said he would welcome a court-ordered agreement between the Justice Department and the city that would spell out specific reforms. Such an agreement would "institutionalize" the changes, Landrieu said, and make sure they last into future city administrations.

"The investigation will examine allegations of excessive force, unconstitutional searches and seizures, racial profiling, failures to provide adequate police services to particular neighborhoods, and related misconduct," Perez said in a letter to Landrieu that was released Monday.

The arrangements have prompted new training requirements and rules that govern when officers can use firearms.

The fresh oversight comes as prosecutors continue to explore the shooting deaths of unarmed people on a New Orleans bridge in 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the city. Four officers have pleaded guilty this year in connection with the incident.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report

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