#NOPD: Over the Precipice

NOPD: Over the Precipice

It will take over 40 years to return to full strength

The New Orleans Police Department has gone over the precipice. We may be beyond the point of return. And the blame rests clearly at the feet of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. They were both forewarned.

In February 2011, the Fraternal Order of Police issued the first hue and cry about the NOPD manpower crisis. For three years, in every news story and interview possible, we have repeated the mantra….”Manpower….Manpower…Manpower”. We have advocated the repeal of the domicile ordinance and we have opposed the tattoo policy. We have asked that the focus be turned to retention and the recruitment of fully trained, post certified lateral police officers.

In February 2011 there were 1415 commissioned New Orleans police officers.

Today, there are 1135 sworn officers – counting from Superintendent down to Field Recruit. Over 100 of those are unable to perform their duties due to serious injury, long-term illness or administrative reassignment.

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Great Place to Work (At least it used to be…)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has submitted a request to the Civil Service Commission that it consider 32 rule changes at its April 21, 2014 meeting.  This is the second attempt to “reform” the civil service system in New Orleans.

Former Civil Service Commissioner Jerry Davis posted the following comment on NOLA.COM regarding the proposed changes:

From the moment Landrieu began packing the Civil Service Commission with his sycophants and cronies, the handwriting was on the wall. As a Tulane graduate, I will never forgive Scott Cowen for his perfidy in surrendering his appointment power; the body which ultimately resulted has completely violated its duty to enforce the basic elements of the merit system. (Full disclosure: I am a forty-year veteran of the Civil Service Department, and had the honor of serving on the Commission before its ‘reinvention’.)

The basic lies about the Civil Service process are repeated in Landrieu’s arguments for this change:

1. Department heads’ authority – whenever vacancies occur, the department heads have always been consulted about the appropriate qualifications; they are also asked to provide updated lists of duties to be performed. Many executives, especially in the current administration cannot be bothered to provide accurate job descriptions or take the time to consider appropriate qualifications – preferring instead, to borrow and paraphrase Mr. Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography, “I’ll know the proper qualifications when I see them in an applicant.”

2. Flexibility in hiring and promotion – department heads have always had the authority to move beyond the ‘Rule of 3’ by passing over a person three times, or documenting reasons.

The losers in this seizure of power are of course the citizens and loyal employees of New Orleans – both as taxpayers who will pay the inevitable costs of turnover, retraining and incompetent service, and as applicants, who will not gain the positions they aspire to because they have not kissed the proper rings.

And so we are condemned to learn again the lessons of the 1880s, when the novel concept of merit in hiring for government service was born.

Civil Service was the reform.  Louisiana thought so highly of the civil service system that it included it in the Louisiana Constitution so that it could only be removed by a vote of the people as opposed to legislators who might want to return to the days of the spoils system.  Mayor Landrieu’s proposed changes erode the foundation of that reform that was so thoughtfully introduced years ago.

Mayor Landrieu would have you believe that his proposals are merely “modernizing” ciivil service.  As former Commissioner Davis points out, implementation of this plan will violate the basic tenets of the merit system.

The Administration underestimated the opposition the first time around.  This time, it is clear that Mayor Landrieu is “all in” on jamming these “reforms” down the throats of his civil servants.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with these issues.  They will be considered at the April 21, 2014 meeting of the Civil Service Commission.  More information to follow.

Mayor Landrieu’s propaganda can be found here.  Take it for what it is worth.

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Civil Service Reform – Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

On April 3, 2014, Mayor Landrieu announced his “reforms” to the Civil Service system in New Orleans. These “reforms” include the ability hire and promote who they want. The Mayor claims these “reforms” do not impede the Civil Service Director’s ability to set minimum hiring standards, while at the same time inserting a provision that would require approval of the appointing authority (read appointee of the Mayor) before those minimum hiring standards are put in place. The “reforms” also include raising the minimum wage of about 200 city employees, which was apparently enough to fool some folks into supporting the measure.

The Louisiana Supreme Court said “In the science of government, experience is always the best teacher. The political drug store is full of panaceas, each with its trade-mark of some school of therapeutics blown in a bottle. In politics there is so often invoked the destructive concept of a practice that to the victor belongs the spoils. It is the “spoil system” that civil service desires to eradicate. If this Court knows what everybody knows, then it has knowledge that political opponents of one administration may be the governing body of the next, and the cranks of the old may become the philosophers of the new; but the value of civil service reform is wholly dependent on whether the law and the evidence, without exception, are fairly and justly applied by the Commissioners, and in the Courts with an even hand freely and fearlessly enforced.” Boucher v. Division of Employment Security, 226 La. 227, 75 So.2d 343 (1954).

The Mayor’s plan indicates that test scores for hiring and promotions should not be determining factors, then states that they should be able to eliminate entire pools of certified candidates if those persons are in the bottom half of the test scores. The Mayor’s plan repeatedly points to “falsely objective rankings” without providing any support for that contention. Just because you say it over and over doesn’t make it true.

It is not too surprising that some New Orleans city employees are dissatisfied with the Civil Service Department. It is difficult to perform when your department’s budget has been slashed repeatedly and your workforce has been diminished to a shadow of its former strength. There were also comments made by Rabbi Cohn regarding the slow pace of Civil Service proceedings. To that, we would simply say that Rabbi Cohn’s short tenure on the Civil Service Commission has been hindered recently by counter-productive actions taken by the current administration and their appointees designed only to impede progress.

We will not try to convince anyone that Civil Service could not be made more efficient or that things couldn’t be done better. We will tell you that these improvements can be made without impacting the foundation of the Civil Service system that the people of Louisiana felt was so important that Civil Service was included in the Louisiana Constitution.

The New Orleans Police Department and the New Orleans Fire Department account for nearly half of all classified civil service employees in the City of New Orleans. We stand united in opposition to this “reform.”

Walter Powers, Jr., President
Fraternal Order of Police
Crescent City Lodge #2

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Nick Felton, President
New Orleans Fire Fighters Association Local 632

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The End of #NOPD Disciplinary Investigations #FOP #FOPNO

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Don’t get the wrong idea.  NOPD is still conducting disciplinary investigations.  I am also not addressing the end of a disciplinary investigation for the purposes of the Police Officers Bill of Rights.  This is about how disciplinary investigations effect promotions and impact a decision to retire or resign.

It is pretty clear when an investigation begins.  There is a date on the DI-1 which initiates the investigation.  A better question is when the investigation ends.  Part of the problem is that there are numerous signals which can be misinterpreted.  For example, the NOPD likes to have officers sign for a form entitled “Notice to Law Enforcement Officer Under Investigation of Pre-Disciplinary Hearing or Unfounded or Unsustained Disposition.”  The NOPD takes the position that this form signals the end of the investigation for purposes of the Police Officers Bill of Rights.  The problem is that this form only contains the investigator’s recommended disposition.  Only the Superintendent of Police, as the appointing authority, can make a final call on a disposition.  In addition, the date on the form for a disciplinary hearing is a date selected by the investigator based on some system.  The investigator really has no involvement in setting the hearing date and is only involved in the hearing if the hearing officer wants to have them as a witness.  The Police Officers Bill of Rights discussion on this matter is a complicated one.  Since this is not the purpose of this article, suffice it to say that this does not signal the end of the investigation for the purpose of promotion or RUI status (even if the allegations are found to be not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated).

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