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Thursday, October 27, 2005  

News: Dallas rejects New Orleans cop-outs

They probably thought it would be easy. Keep a low profile during the first week of turmoil after Hurricane Katrina. Then reappear at roll call claiming to have been incapacitated during those days. While taking advantage of the New Orleans Police Department's payroll and free vacation for its police officers, apply to cop shops in other cities. Perhaps you drove to Dallas, Charlotte or Memphis during your AWOL, maybe even in a stolen Cadillac, so you already have the lay of the land there. It is the kind of plan a sneaky person would be proud of. But, it didn't work for some NOPD cops.

The Clarion-Ledger has the story.

As many as 10 New Orleans police officers suspected of desertion during Hurricane Katrina have been rejected for employment by the Dallas Police Department.

Dallas Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson said his department's screening process for new applicants exposed about 10 New Orleans officers who vanished during the storm.

"When you are ready and take an oath of office and you do not fulfill that office, that's an issue for us and it should be an issue for law enforcement in general," Simpson said.

Capt. Marlon Defillo, a New Orleans police spokesman, said an investigation into "a small segment" of officers who failed to report to duty is under way. Defillo said the number of suspected deserters is far smaller than the original estimate of 250.

So far, no officers have been fired or suspended from the New Orleans department for leaving their posts. New Orleans police said it is possible some of the officers who applied for positions outside of the department may have resigned.

Typically for an outfit known for callousness, chicanery and corruption, the NOPD is trying to minimize the current scandals, including the leave or let go exit of the former police commissioner, the theft of hundreds of vehicles from a dealership, allegedly by cops, and the desertions. It is amazing that nearly two months later, not even one cop has been held accountable for being absent without leave. There have been reports of cops being in Baton Rouge and other cities, sometimes driving Cadillacs, during the time when they should have been serving the desperate citizens of the Big Easy. Nor is Defillo's claim that only a few cops deserted believable. No factual basis for reducing earlier estimates has been offered. A substantial number of the 1,700 member force was missing in action for at least a week after Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the NOPD may never take action to discipline the cops who failed the citizenry so miserably. It is a relief to see someone taking the matter seriously, even if it is a deputy police chief in a city hundreds of miles away.

Reasonably related

In an investigative article, the Dallas Morning News concludes that the New Orleans Police Department has virtually no reputation left to protect.

NEW ORLEANS – The question worries even staunch law enforcement supporters: How can exhausted police in a city notorious for corruption and violent crime reassure citizens that it is safe to return and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina?

"Any city's foundation has to be built on public safety," said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission of Greater New Orleans. "This morning, one of my first phone calls was from Houston – someone wanting to know if it was safe to come back to town with their kids. . . .Every mother and every father out there is wondering the same thing."

Their concern has grown as images of unruly police have been broadcast worldwide in the weeks since the hurricane, when some officers were accused of deserting the city and others of looting it.

. . .In the most recent incident, on Oct. 8, three cops beat a retired six-grade teacher in the French Quarter while a fourth manhandled a television producer covering the melee.

New Orleans has so much rebuilding to do that it is mind-boggling to even consider the tasks ahead. One of its most daunting challenges will be to build, possibly for the first time, a reasonably honest police department. That task should begin now.

11:40 AM