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Federal judge says New Orleans police reforms not moving fast enough

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NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge says efforts by the New Orleans Police Department to eliminate unconstitutional practices and turn the city's police into a modern force are moving too slowly.

At a court hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan said she wanted to see more progress in a variety of areas, from better training to better supervision of officers.

The police department and city signed a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012 to overhaul the department and strip away allegedly unconstitutional conduct by officers.

Morgan praised the department for making improvements, but added that it had a long way to go before it could be considered in compliance with the consent decree. The decree requires the police force to adopt a range of standards, policies and practices. The changes include everything from better equipment to better training.

"The pace of progress for the implementation of the consent decree has not been fast enough," Morgan said.

She said she would start setting deadlines by which the agency would need to prove it has come into line with the consent decree.

Jonathan Aronie, the court-appointed federal monitor of the process, said the judge set a July deadline to show that police supervisors were doing the job they are supposed to be doing.

Thursday's hearing focused on problems with police supervisors.

Aronie and his deputy, David Douglass, outlined a series of problems with police supervisors.

When the Justice Department investigated the police department in 2010, it found widespread failings by supervisors. Today, "many of the problems identified by the (Justice) Department still exist," Aronie said.

Douglass said supervisors often fail to make sure interrogation methods and photo lineups are done properly. He said supervisors often were not keeping adequate records and failed to look into reports of use of force against civilians by officers.

"We have been frustrated," Douglass said.

The monitors also said supervisors are spending too much time doing minor time-consuming administrative tasks, such as payroll.

Deputy Superintendent Robert R. Bardy, head of the NOPD's field operations bureau, told the judge that a number of changes are being put into practice across the department.

"We are committed to getting it right," he said. He said the changes, including more automation of some tasks, should free up the supervisors so that they can do their jobs better.

Still, Morgan was unsatisfied. "It's time for us to pick up the pace," Morgan said before adjourning the hearing.

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