By Natasha Robin | WVUE | April 4, 2023
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – After New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell refused to allow city employees to speak at public hearings on the consent decree without her permission, a federal judge has ordered the presence of several of the city’s top officials.
In a court order on Tuesday (April 4), U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan demanded Interim NOPD Superintendent Michelle Woodfork, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, seven other top officials, and federal consent decree monitors attend the next hearing on April 12.
“I received the order and I’ll be there,” Woodfork said.
Cantrell lashed out at the continued federal oversight of the police department — which will reach 11 years in July — in a statement that claimed continued participation in the public progress reports posed a drain on high-ranking city and NOPD personnel. She said topics discussed in the meetings frequently run outside the scope of the consent decree.
Woodfork issued a statement claiming the idea to stop participating in the hearings was hers.
“Focusing on the consent decree and constitutional police practices should be priority,” Cantrell said. “So asking other city leaders, my executive leadership, that outside of the scope of the consent decree.. doesn’t seem to me that we are focusing on what’s at stake here.”
Morgan postponed last week’s presentation before issuing Tuesday’s subpoena.
“The court indicated if you won’t participate in a voluntary meeting, we’re going to make it be an official court hearing,” said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “The court gave the city the easy way out and they opted to do it the hard way.”
Former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas says having to go to court will now cost the city.
“Why poke a bear when you don’t have to?” Serpas said. “What it will really cost is trust.”
“It’s going to cost not only more time and effort but it’s going to cost more money for the city to go in and make this an official court event,” Goyeneche said.
Cantrell says she believes the NOPD has met compliance for a self-monitoring phase.
“We believe with full certainty that we have met compliance for a self-monitoring phase,” she said. “My administration has taken the necessary steps, working with the DOJ, issuing a motion to terminate and moving forward in that regard.”
“The path to substantial compliance is not thumbing your nose to the court,” Goeyeneche said. “The path to compliance is doubling down and making sure that you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s because that’s the only way it’s going away.”