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‘You’re going to change the culture’: New Orleans talks DOJ-mandated police reform

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that the Louisville Metro and DOJ are working toward a “consent decree” that will guide police reform.

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The Metro Louisville government and Louisville Metro Police Department are about to embark on a long journey to resolve constitutional issues and civil rights violations the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.

The city and LMPD have made several changes since the killing of Breonna Taylor, including things like banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, but the entire department is now under scrutiny for several years.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that the Louisville Metro and DOJ are working toward a “consent decree” that will guide police reform.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but at the end of the day it’s going to be a cultural shift,” said Nicholas Gernon, deputy superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department.

New Orleans has been working on its own consent decree for the past decade. The DOJ and the city entered into a consent decree in July 2012, which was approved by a court in January 2013.

Gernon, who has been with the department for 21 years, said the process resulted in a complete change in policing and he had harsh words for the way things were before.

“To be honest, this change was necessary. We’re not the department we used to be and we’ll never go back to the department we used to be and I don’t think anyone here wants to go back there,” he said.

Gernon said the process involves a review of every single police policy that fell under the consent decree umbrella, then a review of overall police training, and then a review of each supervisor position. As part of that review, they met with officials who were not shopped into the need for change and set the record straight.

“If someone didn’t support the policies, training, and care they received, they were disciplined up to and including termination,” Gernon said.

The City of New Orleans petitioned in May 2013 to overturn the consent decree, but was denied. As recently as last autumn, calls were again made for an end to the consensus decree, saying that the goals had been achieved.

On Wednesday, Merrick Garland said Louisville leaders and the DOJ had “agreed in principle” to the consent decree, but the full document has yet to be written. Gernon said it’s an impressive first step.

“Kudos to Louisville for not straining that. For saying, ‘We agree to enter into a consent decree,’ and now they’re going to go through the drafting process,” he said.

According to discussions with the independent observer who is assessing their progress, Gernon feels they are close to finalizing all aspects of the agreement. Their Consent Decree provides a two-year review period, after the DOJ deems it “done,” to ensure the changes were sufficient.

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