Fired cop had prior issues
The rookie New Orleans police officer who was arrested last week after allegations he stole an expensive watch from a citizen while on a service call has been cited for crimes two other times during his more than two years on the police force.
Desmond Shorty, 24, who resigned after his arrest last week, was issued a municipal summons for domestic battery last September, and for public intoxication, public intimidation and resisting an officer last March, according to court records.
Despite the criminal charges, Shorty was allowed to stay on as a police recruit and was slated to be promoted to the rank of officer. The case raises questions about the NOPD's hiring practices and an internal monitoring system that is supposed to flag potential problem officers.
Police spokesman Bob Young confirmed Thursday night that Shorty had been in the NOPD's recently reformed Professional Performance Enhancement Program (PPEP), designed to closely monitor officers with a high number of complaints or history of discipline issues.
Officers in the six-month program are supposed to be accompanied by a supervisor on all service calls and attend additional training classes.
Young said he couldn't comment on why Shorty was kept on the force, in a probationary capacity, for 2 1/2 years and why Shorty was able to weather such alleged offenses without being terminated.
--- Letter of reprimand ---
Young said Shorty was issued a letter of reprimand in the public intoxication, intimidation and resisting arrest incident, and pointed out that prosecutors dropped the case. As for the domestic battery case, Young said he considered the case open because Shorty is attending a domestic violence intervention program.
Young was unable to immediately produce records on the officer's complaint history, but said such documents, if found, would be released today.
Shorty, assigned to the 7th District, allegedly lifted a $3,500 watch from a woman's purse late last month while investigating a disturbance in eastern New Orleans. He was in the apartment without a search warrant, according to a police report.
The owner of the watch complained to police. A week after the alleged heist, the owner and his girlfriend spotted Shorty in Harrah's Casino and supposedly took a cell-phone photo of him wearing the wristwatch, records show. Internal investigators later found the watch, with unique markings, inside Shorty's vehicle. He resigned from the NOPD while under investigation and was booked into jail on one count of theft and one count of possession of stolen things.
Shorty couldn't be reached for comment Thursday evening.
--- On force since 2007 ---
He joined the NOPD in January 2007 and has been a recruit since then. All recruits are considered to be on probationary status. They are not afforded civil-service protection and can be fired for any reason.
The complaints made against Shorty before the alleged watch theft should have been red flags, said Rafael Goyeneche, president of a watchdog group, the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
"When you look at the history of troubled officers, there are almost always early warning signs," he said. "Here, apparently the signs were ignored. And now you have another black eye, and more public embarassment for the NOPD."
--- Quality vs. quantity ---
With New Orleans routinely ranking among the nation's most dangerous cities, Police Superintendent Warren Riley has made a huge push to hire more police officers. But some, including officers within the department, worry that the need for greater numbers comes with a risk.
"Yes, numbers of police officers are important," Goyeneche said. "But you can never compromise quality for quantity."
In March, the NOPD arrested Darrius Clipps, a cop with one year on the job, in connection with a string of burglaries and sexual assaults. Clipps allegedly used his badge and uniform to conduct false investigations in which the alleged victims allowed him into their homes.
Last summer, officer Ashley Terry, with 15 months on the force, was fired after she waved a handgun and yelled profanities at a woman in the car pool lane of a day care center.
The NOPD's PPEP program, also called the "early-warning system," was instituted in the mid-'90s and drew praise from criminal justice reform groups. It was suspended in the years before the 2005 storm. Young, the police spokesman, said the program was reopened this year.
--- Trouble at nightclub ---
As an officer, Shorty's first brush with the law took place on March 2, 2008, outside a nightclub in the French Quarter.
Shorty was asked to leave the club by authorities several times. But he told Orleans Parish criminal sheriff's deputies that "I'm a 26 (police officer) and I'm not f -- -ing leaving and I don't give a f -- - who you are, but b -- -- I don't care and get the f -- - out of my face," according to a Municipal Court filing.
Shorty then allegedly approached the deputies in an aggressive manner. He was booked into Orleans Parish jail with public intoxication, public intimidation, and resisting an officer. He was released on his own recognizance, according to court records.
The case was dropped by the city attorney's office, which prosecutes municipal cases, when Shorty appeared in court a month later.
Last fall, Shorty was accused of domestic battery. At the time, police had discretion to decide whether such cases warranted state or local charges. That policy changed in February, and now all domestic battery cases are sent to state court and carry potential felony charges.
--- Complaint by girlfriend ---
Shorty's girlfriend at the time called police to report that weeks earlier Shorty had battered her and "poked" her in the eye, according to a police report.
The girlfriend also told police that on at least one other occasion, Shorty had "grabbed her around the neck and pushed and pulled her about the house," and she had had to escape.
Shorty had asked her not to call police, she said. The report says she told police that her delay in reporting the incident owed in part to her evacuation for the approaching Hurricane Gustav.
The responding officer referred her to the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, which investigates complaints against officers. Later, a PIB officer gave her a "new citizen complaint procedure" pamphlet, along with the address where she could mail it, the report states.
Several ranking officers were notified of the girlfriend's complaint. In turn, they notified Shorty and advised him to have no contact with her, according to the report.
Weeks later, Shorty was issued a municipal summons for domestic battery by ranking members of the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau. He pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
Shorty appeared again in court in January and "all parties agreed" that he would attend 26 domestic-violence group sessions, records show.
In addition to the recent cases, Shorty was arrested and booked in 2002 on a municipal charge for disturbing the peace and fighting at Rabouin High School. That case was later dropped by the city attorney's office, records show.
The city attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Thursday
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