Thanks to @johnsimerman and @gordonrussell1 at @theadvocateno for an insightfully report. This is a complicated issue. The DOJ is willing to sacrifice officer safety and NOPD’s ability to adequately serve the public based on their belief that the consent decree will eventually lead to a more professional department which will not be struggling to find officers. In the meantime, we who actually live in New Orleans, as opposed to the DOJ folks who live in Washington D.C., can see that officers are leaving at a higher rate than usual and the NOPD struggles to compete with other agencies, as referenced in this article. NOPD has lost more than 70 officers this year already. This may be an average number, but the percentage of officers leaving is steadily increasing due to a lack of hiring. It is worth noting that the 1,141 officers cited in the article includes the 28 recruits currently in the Academy.
NOPD rank and file are not responsible for the expense associated with the consent decree or the policies of the NOPD administration which led to the consent decree. They are certainly not responsible for anything remotely connected to the OPSO consent decree.
The City wants to make the NOPD and the rest of New Orleans government a “Great Place to Work.” Here are some ideas for a starting point:
1. Raise salaries.
2. Actively pursue removal of OPSE from the consent decree. OPSE is a failed DOJ experiment which is destined to cost the tax payers of New Orleans a considerable amount of money. It is hard to calculate what this has cost the NOPD in terms of officers or cost the officers in terms of pay they rely on to feed their families.
3. Stop taking from officers. Salaries have not been raised or lowered, but health insurance cost has risen 40% in the last several years. Employee pension contributions have increased. This results in a decrease in net pay for officers.
4. Uniform allowances have been replaced with vouchers. This $500/year benefit can no longer be used to buy non-uniform equipment or services. Detectives need coats and ties. Clothes need to be dry cleaned and boots need to be shined.
5. Stop trying to minimize civil service protections. The City claims its civil service reforms do not remove any civil service protections. That is patently false. The reforms maintain the ability to appeal disciplinary actions, but would destroy the protections provided by a competitive merit-based system of employment with regard to hiring and promotions.
It is time for the City to take action. These officers put their lives on the line every day. It becomes more and more difficult to justify that risk when the risk is amplified every time another officer leaves the department. It is difficult to justify continuing taking that risk when checks continue to dwindle. It is difficult to continue taking that risk when you need to constantly check your pockets for spindly finger at the end of the long arm of the City (or the DOJ).
The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 90% of all active NOPD officers, is committed to fighting for pay, benefits, working conditions, and safety of NOPD officers. Furthermore, what benefits NOPD officers benefits the residents and visitors to the City of New Orleans. It is time for the City of New Orleans to take action.