HRC Blog

Department of Justice Responds to Discriminatory Policing in New Orleans

Last week, the Department of Justice issued a report finding that the New Orleans Police Department has been engaging in patterns and practices of illegal discrimination against members of the New Orleans community, including LGBT community members.  The extensive report, which has over 100 pages of findings and recommendations, explains that discrimination against LGBT individuals has included targeting, unjustified arrest, harassment, and physical and sexual abuse by members of the New Orleans Police Department.

A letter by Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez to Mayor Mitch Landrieu accompanies the report and notes that the Department of Justice intends to work with the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans community to “develop a comprehensive, sustainable plan” to address the findings of the report and to “seek ways to reduce crime, ensure constitutional policing, and increase the community’s confidence in the New Orleans Police Department.”  The report contains numerous recommendations to address discrimination against LGBT individuals, including developing policies to comprehensively address discriminatory policing.  Training on discriminatory policing and protocols for responding to biased policing were also recommended.

Moreover, in the discussion of the applicable legal standards, the findings acknowledge that a number of factors weigh in favor of applying heightened scrutiny in the context of discrimination by law enforcement on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This acknowledgement echoes the recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that heightened scrutiny is necessary in such contexts because “there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today.”

The report finds that the New Orleans Police Department “has long been a troubled agency.”  The report has been issued in response to a May 2010 request by the City of New Orleans for help bringing about a “complete transformation” of the New Orleans Police Department.

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