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.
According to Chief Serpas, we need 1575 police officers to police the city. We are currently 440 officers shy of that goal, and we are losing police officers at the alarming rate of 110 to 120 per year.
Mayor Landrieu has provided funding to hire 150 police recruits in 2014, but Chief Serpas has stated we can only expect 80% of new recruits to make it through the training regimen. So only 130 of those new recruits would actually make it to the pay grade of Police Officer I.
Let’s take a look at the math. If we place 130 new recruits in the field, and lose 120 seasoned officers to retirement, resignation, and termination, we show a net gain of 10 police officers for that year. Assuming the city could fund and hire 150 new recruits every year, it would take well over 40 years to reach the staffing levels that Chief Serpas has publicly stated is needed to “adequately police the City of New Orleans”.
You read that correctly – OVER 40 YEARS TO REACH STATED STAFFING GOALS.
The Fraternal Order of Police is calling on Mayor Landrieu, Chief Serpas and the New Orleans City Council to immediately remove all obstacles to hiring qualified police officers and recruits:
- Immediately and permanently rescind the domicile ordinance
- Eliminate the 60 college credit hour requirement for recruits and laterals
- Remove the ridiculous tattoo policy
- Make retention of seasoned officers at least as high a priority as recruiting new officers.
- Approve an across the board pay raise for all police rank and file positions.
- Pass a City Council resolution calling on Federal Judge Susie Morgan to remove oversight of paid details from the NOPD Consent Decree.
The Fraternal Order of Police has offered to assist in the recruitment of qualified police officers from other jurisdictions. We have over 3500 members in the metropolitan New Orleans area alone – and we have a nationwide network to reach out to police officers in other states. If the powers that be begin the process outlined above, the F.O.P. is more than willing to help.
Maybe, just maybe, it is not too late to save the New Orleans Police Department.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: The above article was expertly written and reasoned by FOP Labor Committee Chairman Jim Gallagher. I would like to add the following:
- Presently, it takes 10 months from the start of a police academy before a police recruit becomes a police officer and can function as a stand-alone unit.
- It is questionable whether the NOPD Police Academy has the facilities and manpower to really train 150 police officers in a year.
- It is questionable whether the NOPD has enough trained Field Training Officers to accommodate cranking out 150 police officers in a year.
- Additional Field Training Officers would cause an additional personal services expense.
- The Mayor’s Great Place to Work Initiative, with its proposed Civil Service “reforms,” will not help with retention — Civil Service protection and paid details were often the two main things keeping officers from leaving for neighboring jurisdictions and agencies. The detail system is a complete mess and the Mayor’s proposal will be ushering Civil Service protections out the door. How much deeper can we dig this hole?