ZURIK: Questions over punishment for former NOPD Captain accused of double-dipping

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2022 at 7:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A day after the NOPD demoted Captain Sabrina Richardson to Lieutenant, Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson announced who will take her place.

Wayne DeLarge has been promoted from Lieutenant to Captain of the NOPD’s Third District, which covers Gentilly and Lakeview.

Sabrina Richardson was the subject of a series of FOX 8 investigations. Those investigations found she may have been double-dipping and possibly committed payroll fraud.

While the NOPD has now demoted Richardson, Tulane law professor Joel Friedman says he doesn’t believe the punishment is strong enough. “I think this is really a very serious problem,” said Friedman. “And the police department has not taken this seriously enough, this is not sufficient.”

An NOPD investigation by a detective concluded that Richardson committed payroll fraud, but Friedman believes Richardson should have faced more punishments than the demotion.

“Again, this is all reflective, as far as I’m concerned of their lack of concern over this major issue, and that ultimately falls on the Superintendent of Police. He’s got to step up and say, ‘This is unacceptable.’ At a minimum, demotion, not only reduction in rank reduction and salary, reduction of responsibility, suspension, compensating the police department for all the money that she took from them that she wasn’t entitled to,” said Friedman.

FOX 8 asked the NOPD if the demotion in rank included a reduction in salary, but we didn’t get a response.

Friedman believes the sanctions should have at least included a suspension.

“At a minimum, because you have to send a message to the rest of your force, that you’re not going to countenance this kind of behavior … This is a very serious problem. She was a major offender. This is not a new recruit that just came onto the force, this is a captain,” said Friedman.

FOX 8′s investigation into Richardson looked at four years of payroll and off-duty detail records. We found 26 instances where paperwork showed Richardson was double-dipping, working an on-duty NOPD shift, and an off-duty detail shift at the same time.

One example was March 20, 2019. Richardson was paid for an off-duty detail shift at Restaurant Depot from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. However, at the same time, NOPD records showed her on the clock for a regular duty shift.

FOX 8 then requested times when license plate reading cameras across the city snapped pictures of Richardson’s license plate. We received six months’ worth and found eight instances where Richardson claimed to be working an off-duty detail, but cameras caught her police unit miles away from those assignments.

That included November 27, 2021. Richardson was paid to work detail at Champions Square from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. leading up to the Bayou Classic. However, at 1:07 p.m., a license plate reading camera captured a picture of her police unit on the West Bank.

About an hour later, another camera caught her police unit on Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans east, more than six miles away from Champions Square.

The demotion does remove Richardson from leading the NOPD’s Third District.

Before heading the Third District, Richardson worked for the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau, which investigates police misconduct.

Richardson committed the alleged violations while investigating her fellow officers for misconduct. That’s why Friedman believes the punishment against Richardson should have been harsher.

“When the person responsible for this does this over and over again, which the police now admit occurred, and all they do is demote her, in a situation where she could conceivably be promoted again, for engaging in this kind of callous, clear violation, both of regulations and criminal law, to me, it’s pretty shocking that she wasn’t discharged,” said Friedman.

In May, the NOPD handed over its investigation to Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams to review for possible criminal charges. FOX 8 asked the D.A.’s office for an update on the status of the investigation but hasn’t heard back.

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