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.