NOPD Promotions Illegal and Damaging Morale

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UPDATE:  This article has been revised to redact individuals’ names.  While I received an overwhelming number of supportive reactions to this article, I am concerned about those who thought it was unfair to one particular individual.  It was never my intent to belittle anyone or throw anyone under the bus.  It is the process that is the issue, not the individuals involved.  Therefore, I have redacted all names except for the list of promotions.  The names are unimportant.  I congratulate those who were promoted.

On September 23, 2015, the New Orleans Police Department announced 8 promotions.  Typically, promotions are something to be celebrated and a boost to morale.  Unfortunately, this cannot be the situation.  The round of promotions before this was not much better.  Unfortunately, these promotions have done little more than make morale in the NOPD just a little bit worse.

On September 23, 2015, the following promotions were made:

Lt. Derek Frick to Police Commander
Lt. Bryan Lampard to Police Commander
Sgt. Daryl Watson, I to Police Lieutenant
Sgt. Sabrina Richardson to Police Lieutenant
Sgt. Duralph Hayes to Police Lieutenant
Sgt. Kenrick Allen to Police Lieutenant
Police Officer Charles Love to Police Sergeant
Police Officer Stephanie Taillon to Police Sergeant

Sgt. Daryl Watson was promoted to Police Lieutenant.  Lt. Watson was 61st on the list of 65 Police Sergeants who passed the promotional examination   That means that 60 out of 65 people performed better on the promotional examination.  This is not a multiple choice test.  This is an exam specifically created to test a candidate’s proficiency as a Police Lieutenant with the New Orleans Police Department.  Not only was Lt. Watson 61st on the list, but candidate numbers 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 19, 22, 24, 25, 25 (tie), 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 49, 49 (tie), 52, 55, 55 (tie), 57, 58, 59, and 60 remain unpromoted.

Candidates go into promotional exams thinking that they know what it takes to get promoted.  A candidate who scores well on the test and doesn’t have a pending disciplinary investigation can count on being promoted once the NOPD gets to that candidate’s place on the list.  It simply doesn’t work that way any longer.

What does it take to get promoted?  Some kind of special qualifications, experience, or training?  Well, Lt. Daryl Watson has been assigned to the Criminal Section of the Public Integrity Bureau for a long time.  Certainly that kind of experience must be hard to find.  It might be, but Sgt. Kevin Stamp, number 30 on the list, shares the same assignment and has been in that assignment for quite a while.  So, I guess that is not it.  Is it education?  Sgt. Eric Berger, number 22 on the list, graduated from law school.  I don’t think Lt. Watson has a law degree, so that is not it.  What is it?

Here is what the Louisiana Constitution tells us:

Permanent appointments and promotions in the classified state and city service shall be made only after certification by the appropriate department of civil service under a general system based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service, as ascertained by examination which, so far as practical, shall be competitive.
La. Const. art. X, § 7

The Civil Service system is designed to ensure that promotions and appointments are made based on objective criteria that are no secret to anyone.  The Constitution clearly envisions those objective criteria being accounted for in the examination process.

The Louisiana Constitution goes on to explain the process for picking promotional candidates with a little flexibility built in:

The number to be certified shall not be less than three; however, if more than one vacancy is to be filled, the name of one additional eligible for each vacancy may be certified. Each commission shall adopt rules for the method of certifying persons eligible for appointment, promotion, reemployment, and reinstatement and shall provide for appointments defined as emergency and temporary appointments if certification is not required.
La. Const. art. X, § 7

This is where the problem comes in.  In spite of the obvious logical flaws, the Landrieu administration has fought to interpret this as saying that the number to be certified could be 3 or 103.  Once they had the right people appointed to the Civil Service Commission, the rules were changed basically making everyone who passed the test equal.  Whatever the competitive nature of the testing is, if there is any beyond passing the test, is a mystery.

What I can say for certain is that the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department believe that the competitive criteria is friendship with the right person.

What I can also say for certain is that whether or not that is true is irrelevant because perception is reality.

The Civil Service system was developed to prevent that perception.  The Civil Service system was designed to prevent political interference and “the spoils system.”  The Civil Service system was designed so that an objective set of criteria could be applied to candidates for promotion in the public employ and employees could count on getting promoted, even if they were not friends with the boss.

These revisions to the Civil Service rules made as part of Mayor Landrieu’s Great Place to Work initiative need to be repealed.  The Fraternal Order of Police has a lawsuit filed in Civil District Court asking a Judge to declare the new rules unconstitutional.  We would all be better off if the Civil Service Commission repealed these changes on their own accord or if the NOPD sought to have these rule changes repealed.  Of course, that won’t happen.  The NOPD could have continued to apply the old rules to promotions.  Had the NOPD continued using the old rules in spite of the rule changes, perhaps officers wouldn’t feel like their chances of getting promoted were impacted by potentially anything other than test score.  Superintendent Serpas sought to kill the last promotional register for Police Lieutenant after the first half of the list was promoted.  It was his stated belief that he would have rathered give a new test to generate a new list in order to avoid promoting from the bottom half of the list (the list being comprised of all who have passed the exam).

At this point in the history of the NOPD and the City of New Orleans, police manpower is at critical levels.  Manpower has been at critical levels for several years now and will take years to correct.  As long as the men and women who make up the NOPD believe that they are not being treated fairly or that promotions aren’t being administered fairly, it will be hard to convince officers that they should be trying to encourage potential law enforcement professionals that this is the place to start a career.

It was not my intention to pick on Daryl Watson for any reason.  I am only trying to illustrate a point.  Nothing written here is intended to infer in any way that Daryl Watson is not a capable police officer or that he will not make a capable Police Lieutenant.  Indeed, I have spoken with others who had been promoted from the bottom of the list who have indicated that they too wished the NOPD had used the old rules to promote people so that people would not be as quick to question their potential as a supervisor.  Hopefully, he will understand.  I used 62 as my example last time.

This needs to be fixed or morale will never improve.

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FOP Scholarships Make Lasting Difference for Members, Families

fop press release

For Immediate Release
Monday, September 14, 2015

FOP SCHOLARSHIPS MAKE LASTING DIFFERENCE FOR MEMBERS, FAMILIES

At its September meeting, the Fraternal Order of Police, Crescent City Lodge No. 2, awarded scholarships to members and their families through the organization’s Scholarship Program, which awards a total of $7,500 in scholarship funds each year.

Over the past 10 years, FOP Scholarship Committee Chairman Louis Shaw has overseen the disbursal of more than $50,000 in educational assistance to FOP members, their spouses, children and grandchildren.  At its September 2015 meeting, the FOP awarded the following scholarships:

FOP Attorney’s Continuing Education $1,000 Scholarship was awarded to NOPD Sgt. Nicole Powell.  Powell is assigned to the NOPD’s Investigative Services Bureau, and is attending Loyola University of New Orleans.  This scholarship is funded by donations from our FOP Legal Plan attorneys, many of whom are former New Orleans police officers.

Through the Robert E. Lampard, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, $500.00 was awarded to Meghan Brown, the granddaughter of retired NOPD Lieutenant John Jackson.  Meghan Brown attends Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge.  The Robert E. Lampard, Jr. Memorial Scholarship is awarded in honor of the late Robert E. Lampard, Jr., longtime National Trustee of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Through the J. Fant Taylor College Scholarship, named for a longtime benefactor of the FOP, two scholarships of $500.00 were awarded. Sgt. Omar Garcia, assigned to the NOPD Child Abuse Section, was awarded $500.  Garcia is attending the University of New Orleans.   NOPD Officer Valerie Keys was also awarded a $500 scholarship.  Keys, assigned to the NOPD Crime Laboratory, is working toward a degree from the University of Phoenix.

In order to assure that our younger members can also benefit from our scholarship program, the FOP Crescent City Lodge also awards two $500 High School / Grade School scholarships to children in grade school and high school.  This year’s recipients are Anthony Ceravolo, son of FOP member Capt. William Ceravola (ret.), who attends Lyon Elementary School; and Rachal Bancroft, granddaughter of Arthur Bancroft, who retired from NOPD in 2006, is attending Belle Chasse Academy, located at the Naval Air Station in Belle Chasse and dedicated to the education of military-dependent children.

“Our Scholarship Program makes a lasting impact, not only on the recipients and their families but on our community,” said Sgt. Walter Powers, Jr., president of the lodge.  “Education makes the NOPD stronger and improves New Orleans in myriad ways that last long after graduation ceremonies.  We’re proud of our contributions to our city, and we’re proud of all the scholarship recipients.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, Crescent City Lodge, is the largest law enforcement organization associated with the New Orleans Police Department.  Our membership is made up of over 1,000 active law enforcement officers and nearly 900 retired officers.  Our mission is to promote and foster the enforcement of law and order; to improve the individual and collective proficiency of our members in the performance of their duties; to encourage fraternal, educational, charitable and social activities among law enforcement officers; to advocate and strive for uniform application of the civil service merit system for appointment and promotion; to support the improvement of the standard of living and working conditions of the law enforcement profession through every legal and ethical means available.

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Media Contact:

James Hartman
tel:504.458.4600
504.458.4600
james@jameshartman.net

Obligations, Pensions and Millage (updated)

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In the September 10, 2015 copy of The New Orleans Advocate, there was a letter to the editor by Nick Felton, President of New Orleans Firefighters Association Local 632.  The letter is about how the City of New Orleans needs to make good on their obligation to the NOFD pension.  It goes without saying that a city’s obligations to public employees and public employees’ pensions are extremely important.  While these pensions have been demonized recently by some politicians around the country, the existence of these pensions for public employees is a significant inducement for young professionals to dedicate their professional lives to public service at wages below what they might be able to get otherwise in the private arena.   As I said above, pensions are extremely important for public servants.

Many who are not in public service (and some who are) are completely unaware of what is known as the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision.  The Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) significantly reduces the Social Security benefits of anyone who contributes to a public pension.  Police officers, firefighters, and teachers are all among the public servants adversely impacted by the WEP.  This underscores the importance of public pensions, particularly for those who have dedicated 30+ years to their communities and rely on pension payments to survive in retirement.

I encourage public servants to start their own Roth IRA or some similar type of investment to save for the future.  There are some interesting options available, such as Acorns, an iOS app which allows participants to automatically invest their spare change as they go through the day.  I use Acorns.  It works for me in the background, silently squirreling away spare change.

As important as this topic is, it is not the reason for this post.

Much has been made recently about a recent court decision holding Mayor Mitch Landrieu in contempt of court and threatening house arrest for his nonpayment of the debt owed to the firefighters’ pension not devising a plan to pay the firefighters their judgment in their longevity or payroll lawsuit.   The fact is that the City of New Orleans owes in excess of $34 million to over 500 plaintiffs in various civil judgments, as reported by NOLA.COM reporter Robert McClendon.  One of those debts it to the City’s police officers.

In 1980, Claude Schlesinger,  on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police, filed an action in Civil District Court on behalf of New Orleans police officers for millage payments owed to our city’s police officers. The District Court found in favor of the Fraternal Order of Police and ordered the City to pay $3,376,740.00 to police officers for neglected payments between 1980 and 1994 and left the post-1994 amount owed open for later determination.  This judgment was finalized in 2000 and the City appealed the judgment to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

A February 19, 2003 decision rendered by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of Civil District Court thereby upholding the judgment.   This judgment has been sitting around since 2003 accruing judicial interest and has not been paid to the police officers who were prejudiced by the actions of the City deemed to be illegal by the court.

This judgment needs to be paid.  Many of the officers adversely effected by this lapse have since retired and now live on fixed incomes or have had to get jobs to supplement pension payments.

The City owes it to all New Orleanians to pay this judgment before the judicial interest gets any larger.

There is a moral obligation to fund the firefighters’ pension.  There is also a moral obligation to pay the judgments to people wronged by the City.  The City wants to attract and retain police officers.  They are quick to point to that as a goal.  One good way to do that would be to make good on its debts.

Pay the millage judgment.

This post was revised on 9/12/15 based on comments received from NOFD personnel.  I hope that it is now accurate.  Ultimately, the message remains the same.

The comment I received follows:

You wrongly stated the mayor’s “house arrest” was due in part because he did not pay the funds into the pension system. That is not the case. He is held in “contempt” for not coming up for a reasonable payment plan to pay off the “Longevity Lawsuit” which I like to call the “Payroll Lawsuit” for layman terms, the City has lost. The City lost the pension lawsuit too, but these are two different lawsuits which the mayor is attempting to confuse the public about when he continues to tie the pension lawsuit to the longevity lawsuit.

You stated twice wrongly in your letter:

First, “The letter is about how the City of New Orleans needs to make good on their obligation to the NOFD pension.”

And secondly, “Much has been made recently about a recent court decision holding Mayor Mitch Landrieu in contempt of court and threatening house arrest for his nonpayment of the debt owed to the firefighters’ pension.”