By Natasha Robin | WVUE | November 19, 2021
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – “This is a grand experiment creating this external agency to the police department. I’m not aware of any other police department in the country that does it in this manner,” says Rafael Goyeneche.
It’s an external agency running the NOPD’s detail program, created a decade ago, as part of the NOPD’s Consent Decree.
Now, the program is raising some serious concerns.
“I think it has created a vacuum in which both the city and the police department are not clearly on the same page with respect to making sure that all the rules of the department are being followed,” says Goyeneche.
A recent Lee Zurik investigation uncovered discrepancies in the program, revealing some officers booked details and worked on duty at the same time, essentially getting paid twice.
“So, at the time that the consent decree was being contracted, there was a phrase referring to the detail system as the ‘aorta of corruption’, ” says Goyeneche.
So, the city created the Office of Secondary Employment to handle police details. NOPD officers now register with the city office, and it’s the Office of Secondary Employment that pays them.
“The Office of Secondary Employment doesn’t determine if they’re on the clock for the police department. The officer has registered to work a detail, they’re assuming they’re not on the clock for the police department, so you have this no man’s land that nobody’s checking,” says Goyeneche.
“There’s always the possibility of errors,” says Donovan Livacarri.
Donovan Livacarri is the General Counsel for the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police. He says those errors could come in the detail sheets because officers don’t enter their own hours.
“I think it’s amazing that there can be a payroll system administered by police and another element of the city and those payroll systems allow two different working periods at the same time. Don’t’ understand how that happens,” says Livaccari.
The NOPD has suspended 26 officers from doing off-duty details pending an investigation. Goyeneche says when it comes to payroll fraud, there’s usually a paper trail.
“So it won’t be so much a he said, she said, because there will be documentation showing that an officer was working a private duty detail and his payroll records will indicate that if there was any cross over from the private duty detail and when he was on the clock for the City of New Orleans,” says Goyeneche.
If criminal evidence is collected, Goyeneche says it’ll be handed over to the District Attorney’s Office to determine if it justifies a prosecution.