By Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness Investigator | WWL-TV | August 6, 2020
NEW ORLEANS — Lt. Bradley Rhodes is one of the longest-serving veterans in the New Orleans Police Department. In addition to his reputation as a hard worker, he’s also known for capitalizing on off-duty work details back when they were largely unregulated, at one point getting suspended for violating departmental policy.
Since then, the system of doling out details has become highly regulated under the NOPD’s sweeping consent decree, but recent controversy involving Rhodes has led some officials to question if those reform rules may have been bent, if not broken.
Rhodes is currently under internal investigations after two separate complaints were filed against him. As a result, Rhodes was transferred from his post in the Eighth District.
But for several weeks, Rhodes continued to work a lucrative supervisory detail in that district, which is centered in the French Quarter. From his first transfer on June 22 through at least the end of July, records show Rhodes worked the detail despite his removal from the district.
In 2011, Rhodes was one of several ranking officers named in an Eyewitness News report who were suspended for improperly operating lucrative details under companies they incorporated. Through his security company, Rhodes provided security for the city’s impound lots and administrative hearing center.
Details are usually security jobs that many officers work to earn extra money, but in the past, some officers prioritized details over their regular duties. The Justice Department singled out the practice as an “aorta of corruption” in need of an overhaul as part of NOPD’s ongoing federal consent decree.
Gone are the days when individual officers could line up their own side jobs, hire superiors to work for them, dictate their own pay and hours. Since an overhaul in 2013, details are highly regulated, run by an 11-person office inside City Hall known as OPSE, the Office of Police Secondary Employment.
The management of off-duty details is handled, at least on paper, by a $122,000-a-year administrator with an all-civilian staff. The office’s annual payroll is almost $700,000.
But it is unclear to what extent that office is running the detail Rhodes was supervising: the French Quarter Task Force.
The high-profile operation uses Smart Cars to patrol the Quarter, an operation originally launched by waste disposal magnate Sidney Torres IV and bankrolled by hotel taxes. From its inception, the detail has been run by businessman Bob Simms, with Rhodes as his supervisor.
Eric Hessler, attorney for Police Association of New Orleans attorney, questions why OPSE does not exercise more control over the task force, one of the largest and most lucrative details in the city.
“You would think they’d stand by their mission statement and do what they were designed to do,” Hessler said. “Why isn’t OPSE handling that detail, or supervising it, or somehow stepping in and saying this is not an individual we either want to maintain?”
Rhodes’ supervision of the detail officially came to an end Monday, but only after WWL-TV raised questions that have been posed by fellow officers for weeks.
Rhodes is currently under not one, but two separate internal investigations, the department confirmed. Multiple sources say one involves a complaint of sexual harassment of an officer in the Eighth District.
Records show that Rhodes was transferred out of the 8th on June 22, but continued to supervise the French Quarter detail. The records also show the side job has been lucrative for Rhodes, worth more than $40,000 a year and pushing his total police pay to more than $168,000 in 2019.
“I’m sure they (the NOPD brass) know about this. I’m sure that they have approved it,” Hessler said.
Officers actively under investigation are prohibited from working details when they are reassigned, according to language in the consent decree. But despite Rhodes being moved at least twice following the recent complaints against him, a department spokesman said he was “transferred,” not “reassigned.”
”Working a detail is a privilege, not a right,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “This is more significant, potentially, than just the wrongdoing of one officer. It has ramifications for the NOPD consent decree.”
Goyeneche questions if the department violated the spirit, if not the letter, of its detail policies. All of this comes at a time when the city pushing hard to be released from the consent decree and its $8 million-a-year price tag.
“That mindset is dangerous,” Goyeneche said. “I think the department needs to realize that they’re responsible for making sure that all of their rules and regulations with respect to everything that officers do, including secondary employment, are being followed.”
Simms said Rhodes was given special permission to continue with the detail after he was moved. The department gave no explanation as to why that was allowed.
WWL-TV tried to reach Rhodes for comment, but he has not responded. He has not notified the Civil Service department if any attorney is representing him in the still-active internal investigations.
Eighth District Sgt. Ranada Blackman was named this week as Rhodes’ replacement as the French Quarter Task Force supervisor.