New law gives NOPD officers discretion on arresting drivers with suspended licenses

Police officer has stern words.

NEW ORLEANS — A new city ordinance will give NOPD discretion when deciding whether to arrest drivers who have a suspended, revoked or canceled driver’s license.

The New Orleans City Council passed the ordinance unanimously July 26. Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed it into law today.

Cantrell said in a news release that the ordinance was passed, in part, as a response to the arrest of former City Councilman Oliver Thomas on May 31.

Thomas was in a serious car crash that injured his two children, and because he had a traffic ticket in St. Charles Parish that he had forgot to pay, there was a warrant out for his arrest.

“Our officers could benefit from a greater degree of discretion that would ultimately free up needed manpower,” said Cantrell. “While on its own it cannot effect a change in procedure today, my administration looks forward to working with our state delegation to resolve any potential contradiction with state law — and to seeing this effort through to its conclusion. We all share the goal of helping the NOPD keep its focus on violent crime.”

NOPD Chief Michael Harrison agreed.

“We are always looking for ways to be more efficient and effective when it comes to delivering public services, especially if there’s a better way of doing it,” Harrison said. “While this is an important first step, we now need support from state lawmakers to clarify state statues that would allow the NOPD to exercise the discretion the City Council has approved.”