The city of New Orleans has agreed to pay $13.3 million to settle a civil rights suit stemming from three fatal incidents between New Orleans police officers and city residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
During an emotion-filled press conference on Monday, Dec. 19, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the hefty payout and, on behalf of the city, apologized to the families of the victims involved. He also accepted responsibility for the unnecessary slayings, adding that the settlement marked a “painful” moment in the department’s history.
“We’re going to change as a people and we are going to change as a city because we choose to,” Landrieu asserted. “In some small way, the lives that have been maimed and the lives [that] have been taken were not lives that were or will be lived in vain.
“The people standing before you have chosen to give us the grace and the blessing of forgiveness for what it is that happened to them,” the mayor continued, referring to the families of the victims who stood behind him.
According to Nola.com, the settlement includes payments to the relatives of the unarmed civilians who where killed or injured during a police shooting on the Danziger Bridge; for the deadly shooting of Henry Glover, who was gunned down by a New Orleans cop at an Algiers strip mall while shopping for his baby; and for the killing of Raymond Robair, who was beaten to death by police prior to the devastating hurricane.
In October, Landrieu, whose office played a critical role in negotiating the settlement, vowed to work tirelessly to seek compensation for families of the victims in an effort to rectify the deadly shootings and subsequent police cover-up. Atlanta Black Star reported that the mayor had a goal of reaching a resolution by the end of the year and asked that the plaintiffs in the civil suits document their losses and submit their proposed settlement figures.
Moreover, Landrieu promised to use a portion of the $20 million earmarked in his suggested budget to pay off the list of lawsuits against the city.
Nola.com reported that Monday’s settlement is expected to cover the 17 complainants who brought multiple suits, including wrongful death and personal-injury claims, against New Orleans. Six officers involved in the post-Katrina shootings, two of which were fatal, have since pleaded guilty in the slayings and attempted cover-up. Another 20 officers also were charged in connection to several civil rights violations that occurred after the storm, according to the news site.
As a result of the deadly Danziger Bridge incident and fatal shooting of Glover, Landrieu said the NOPD is currently under the most comprehensive federal consent decree in the U.S. He also assured that the department is making sweeping changes to the way it hires, supervises and trains its officers to prevent heinous incidents like these from happening again.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison also said that the department is training officers on how to de-escalate situations, holding them accountable for their use of force and requiring that their body cameras be turned on at all times.
“If we find a problem, we do not make excuses,” Harrison said. “We take swift action against anyone who chooses to make a bad decision. You have my commitment that we will continue to build a professional, community-oriented police department.”
Payments from the settlement are expected to be disbursed to the families of the victims over a 24-month period. The city had previously settled with four of the victims’ relatives in November, according to the New Orleans Advocate.