By David Jones, FOX8

August 30, 2023

The federal judge in charge of overseeing the implementation of the consent decree in New Orleans called city leaders to court to answer questions surrounding the police department’s investigation into Officer Jeffrey Vappie.

The hearing on Thursday (Aug. 31) will focus on the Public Integrity Bureau (PIB) and whether the same investigative standards were applied in the Vappie investigation as are applied in investigations of other officers handled by the department’s internal affairs unit.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell has stood behind her assertion that Judge Susie Morgan and the federal consent decree monitors appointed by the Department of Justice should “stay in their lanes.”

“From the PIB side of it, [it was] absolutely handled effectively. It went even further, I would say, than most investigations have been,” Cantrell said on Wednesday.

The monitor’s report detailed several violations of the consent decree alleged to have taken place while PIB conducted its investigation of Vappie.

The city has worked to remove itself from the consent decree, which was imposed by the Department of Justice more than 10 years ago and has governed reforms toward constitutional policing at NOPD.

“The mayor is saying PIB went above and beyond. Part of what they did above and beyond was they asked the mayor to make a statement to them because this matter involves the mayor,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “There are numerous incidents that have raised the question of whether the policies that the consent decree requires PIB to follow were applied in this particular case.”

The report found PIB committed nine violations of policy, starting with not including the allegation of “payroll fraud” in its intake paperwork.

“Picking and choosing a particular investigation, again, outside of the scope. What I will say is I’m looking for bias free monitoring and just bias free,” Cantrell said. “When you talk about the handling, I would say more so on the outside. Those agencies that have no authority relative to the investigation. That is what I have a problem with, that is unprecedented, that is bias, and that is not fair.”

The monitors said, that by not investigating Vappie for potential payroll fraud, the investigation was tainted from the beginning. Jonathan Aronie, the lead monitor, added that both Cantrell and NOPD Consultant Fausto Pichardo, who Vappie was assigned to protect at times, were important witnesses who were not interviewed by PIB.

“As officers are leaving the force in historical numbers, exit interviews with the officers that leave, one of the compelling reasons officers list as the reason they’re leaving is they view PIB as applying a double standard for investigations,” said Goyeneche. “If there is a different standard applied to members of the executive protection team, the Mayor of the City of New Orleans didn’t cooperate with the internal affairs investigation, I think that’s indicative of a problem.”

The hearing will be held at 2 p.m. in Judge Morgan’s courtroom.