New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas says he welcomes federal help with handling cases involving corruption and civil rights violations.
"The greatest crisis we face in New Orleans right now is that there are clearly great expectations on the part of our community for us to be a better police department."
The FBI had an agent at NOPD from 1996 until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the agent was reassigned to handle storm-related fraud. Public Integrity Bureau Deputy Chief Arlinda Westbrook says the agents will help the office be more efficient.
"To have them actually there in the office, real time, where there won't be a delay in getting a response from the U-S Attorney's Office will be monumental in what I have to do and the task that I need to do."
U-S Attorney Jim Letten, whose office has led several high-profile successful civil rights cases against New Orleans police, says stationing two agents within the department could repair its image with the public.
"I cannot tell you how important this is to the reform of NOPD, the rebuilding of NOPD, the credibility of NOPD, I think, and the type of relationship that is going to be necessary to move forward and to make certain that there is absolutely zero tolerance for any kind of misconduct within NOPD."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Dave Welker says the Public Integrity Bureau will continue to be in charge of internal investigations.
"It is not the FBI taking over PIB. That's not going to happen. It is not designed that the FBI will run PIB. That is not going to happen. It's not designed for the FBI to be NOPD's big brother. That is not our role."
Serpas says the move has been under discussion since he took office over a year ago. The two agents will offer training in civil rights issues, and begin their new assignments this week.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming