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Report critical of New Orleans police

NEW ORLEANS -- Police officers here have often used deadly force without justification, repeatedly made unconstitutional arrests and engaged in racial profiling, the Justice Department said yesterday in a scathing report.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the report sobering but not surprising, given the highly publicized problems laid bare after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He had requested the review shortly after taking office in May 2010 and said many of the problems outlined in the report existed long before Katrina devastated the city.

The report found that the department has long failed to adequately protect New Orleans residents because of numerous shortcomings, including inadequate supervision and ineffective methods of taking and investigating complaints.

The report's release comes as one former police officer awaits sentencing for a federal manslaughter conviction in a post-Katrina shooting and as others await trial in the separate killings of unarmed civilians.

"Even the most serious uses of force, such as officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, are investigated inadequately or not at all," the report said, using the department's acronym NOPD.

It said poor recruitment, bad training, ignorance or disregard of policies that often are unclear contributed to a lack of confidence and a distrust of the police.

Said Mary Howell, a civil rights lawyer who has frequently represented victims of alleged police misconduct, "You cannot fight crime with a brutal and corrupt police department."

Landrieu and his hand-picked police chief, Ronal Serpas, said reforms already are under way. -- AP

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