Much has been made about the number of officers resigning or retiring from the New Orleans Police Department lately. On average, one NOPD officer resigns or retires every three days. Manpower at the NOPD is at historic lows with current commissioned strength somewhere right above 1,120. This is not meant to be an article discussing manpower, so I do not intend to get into the number of officers on limited duty or out injured or sick for an extended period of time. There is a critical shortage of manpower that jeopardizes officer safety and NOPD’s ability to respond adequately to the public’s needs. At the rate NOPD is hiring, it will take a very long time to get up to the 1,575 officers that Superintendent Serpas has said he needs.
That being said, I am regularly contacted by officers who have left voluntarily indicating their desire to return to the NOPD. It is not unusual for officers who have left to decide that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Certainly that is not true of every officer who leaves, but officers express their desire to return on a regular basis.
The process of being reinstated has been a little confounding at times. Civil Service Rule VI, Section 4.8 describes how reinstatement works:
(a) Any regular or probationary employee who has resigned from a position or has been terminated for reasons other than inefficiency, delinquency, or misconduct and has requested reinstatement to the same department and to any classification previously occupied, may, upon the request of the appointing authority and with the prior approval of the Personnel Director, based upon the record of the employee for satisfactory service, be reinstated to that position or any position where permanent status was previously held, within a period of three (3) years from the date of separation if a vacancy exists therein and upon the completion of a satisfactory medical examination if the separation was for medical reasons.
(b) However, if more than three years have elapsed, a former regular employee may apply for reinstatement only to the same department in the same classification as previously occupied, and subject to the following conditions:
- The employee returns with probationary status and must successfully complete a new working test period.
- The minimum qualifications and job requirements for the classification have remained essentially the same. However, if the minimum qualifications and job requirements have been revised, then the former employee must meet the current criteria.
- In the event the former employee’s personnel files are no longer in existence, it shall be the individual’s responsibility to provide documentation to the Personnel Director, that he or she successfully completed the examination process and attained permanent status in the classification in question, and subsequently left the city service under honorable conditions.
In short, an employee who has left voluntarily can return within three (3) years if the appointing authority requests the reinstatement from the Personnel Director. In the case of the NOPD, that means that the Superintendent of Police would have to request the reinstatement of the officer to Civil Service and the Personnel Director at Civil Service must approve.
Previously, that process was convoluted. Officers seeking reinstatement would often not know who to ask or would make general inquiries and receive no response.
As more of these reinstatement requests came in, it became evident that a better system needed to be in place. In response to this, the Superintendent has implemented the following system for reinstatement requests:
The officer seeking reinstatement can either seek the assistance of an organization such as the FOP or they can undertake the process on their own. If the officer has any questions about how to make the request or how to explain their desire to return or the circumstances of their departure, it may be better to seek the assistance of counsel. The FOP provides such assistance to its members (and often, former members).
The officer seeking reinstatement (or representative) should send a correspondence to the Superintendent of Police expressing the desire to be reinstated. That correspondence can be in the form of a letter addressed to the Superintendent at NOPD Headquarters (715 S. Broad St., NOLA 70119) or an email to Superintendent Serpas (email@example.com).
Once the Superintendent has received the request, he will arrange a meeting during the next departmental COMSTAT. At that meeting, the Superintendent or his representative (read other chief(s)) will meet with the officer to discuss the officer’s desire to return and circumstances of departure. Following that meeting, the Superintendent will make a decision regarding that officer’s reinstatement or the Superintendent’s representative(s) will make a recommendation to the Chief regarding the officer’s reinstatement.
Once the Superintendent has had an opportunity to review the recommendation and any initial information, the officer’s reinstatement will be forwarded to the Management Services Bureau (Recruitment) for a review board appearance and processing (assuming the decision is ultimately favorable).
This new process was recently used and a meeting was set up for the officer immediately. That meeting has not taken place yet. So, it remains to be seen exactly how efficient this new system will be for processing reinstatements. However, it is a step forward compared to the old system (or lack thereof).
Hopefully, officers seeking reinstatement will find the process to be a little more efficient than it was previously. As usual, I am available to assist officers who would like to be reinstated, as are the other FOP attorneys. If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to send them.
This could easily have to be updated. Stay tuned.