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Fri March 29, 2013

New Orleans Mayor Warns Of Cuts From Consent Decrees

Mayor Landrieu predicts severe cuts if police and jail consent decrees implemented simultaneously.
Mayor Landrieu addresses the City Council at an emergency meeting he requested.
Credit Eileen Fleming / WWNO

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a bleak assessment to the City Council about consent decrees designed to reform the police department and jail. The mayor warns that severe cutbacks are in store if both reform plans take effect in this budget year.

Mayor Landrieu told the council that he requested the Justice Department's help with reforming New Orleans police operations. He supports the plan approved by Attorney General Eric Holder and a federal judge. But he says he was blindsided by a consent decree to reform the city jail.

“Some have questioned whether we’re just blowin’ smoke or exaggerating. Some have suggested that this is just political theater. This is about math.”  

Landrieu says the Police Department decree will cost $55 million over five years. The plan to bring the city jail into constitutional compliance is twice that. And it has no control over how the money is spent by Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

“The bottom line is that both the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and the NOPD consent decrees cannot be paid for at the same time in this fiscal year without raising taxes or substantially gutting all aspects of city services, especially public safety.”   

Civil rights attorney Mary Howell told the council that she was disappointed to hear fear and frustration at the process to reform a jail that’s been a problem for years.

“This is not complicated. There are well-run, safe, secure, humane, constitutional jails all over this country. They’re all over this country. This is not we’re starting from the beginning. This is like Corrections 101.”  

Gusman said at a later news conference that Landrieu is trying to deflect attention from what the mayor should have known was coming. A federal judge will review the jail consent decree Monday. A hearing on funding the plan is set for May.

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