NOPD Manpower

On Wednesday, 2-19-20, during the Nyx parade, there was an unfortunate accident leading to the death of a parade-goer who attempted to cross the parade route between two halves of a tandem float.

On Saturday, 2-22-20, during the Endymion parade, there was another fatal accident involving a parade-goer attempting to cross the parade route between two halves of a tandem float.

It was inevitably brought up that the 2-19-20 incident was the first parade related fatality since 2008 when an Endymion rider was killed in the Endymion disband area by the Superdome.

I was present for the 2008 incident in the Endymion disband area. In fact, at the time, I was Commander of the NOPD Traffic Fatality Investigations Unit. So, my unit conducted the investigation, just as the NOPD Fatality Investigations Unit was responsible for investigating the two incidents this year.

The 2008 incident happened when an inebriated rider got off the float when the floats were being moved. Those two things simply should not have been happening at the same time. The 2020 cases are not that simple.

Following the implementation of the federal consent decree involving the NOPD, quite a few police officers left the service. The FOP has been pointing out since 2011 that manpower had reached a critical level every chance we got. 

When the Landrieu administration transitioned to the Cantrell administration, I was asked about my hopes for the NOPD. They were, and still are, that the manpower problems are not forgotten about and that the Great Place to Work “reforms” of Civil Service Rules would be repealed.

We are working on Great Place to Work.

As for manpower, we have made little progress in that area.

Manpower shortages on the parade route are most visible in that parade contingencies are often found working behind the crowds instead of in front of the crowds. This may allow for officers to respond to and contain critical incidents more quickly. However, officers in front of the crowd are more likely to deter people from trying to cross between the two halves of tandem floats. Sometimes, a whistle blow or a quick, forbidding look from a uniformed police officer is enough to keep folks from making bad decisions.

Putting a tractor on every float could be helpful, if we have enough tractors to pull that off.  There may be other safety efforts which could help as well. I am confident one of those things is to continue to work on police manpower so that the NOPD’s resources can be deployed more effectively so we can avoid these tragic accidents. I wonder when the last parade fatality involving a parade-goer (as opposed to a float rider who had been drinking the entire day) occurred during New Orleans Mardi Gras? I don’t think 2008 counts.

Please have a safe Mardi Gras. Be careful. Listen to the law enforcement officers around (behind?) you. They know how to keep you safe. We have been doing it a long time with a pretty good track record.

FOP Statement in Support of IAFF Local 632

On February 7, 2020, the leadership of IAFF Local 632, representing the firefighters of the New Orleans Fire Department, met with Mayor LaToya Cantrell, CAO Gilbert Montaño, and other New Orleans administration members. At that time, IAFF Local 632 President Aaron Mischler brought up matters previously agreed to by administration representatives at a prior meeting I attended on behalf of the Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. President Mischler stated that the senior administration officials disavowed agreements made by their representatives at the prior meeting I attended in November 2019. This disavowal led IAFF Local 632 members to declare that they would no longer be accepting off-duty details and extra-duty voluntary assignments.

The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, representing over 1,000 active NOPD officers, as well as another 1,000 retired members, support the actions taken by President Mischler on behalf of IAFF Local 632. The FOP is committed to maintaining the integrity of the New Orleans Civil Service system. The FOP supports the decision by IAFF Local 632 to insist that the administration honor its prior commitments.

The NOPD and the NOFD have been experiencing manpower shortages for several years now. Currently, the NOPD is still about 400 police officers short of manpower goals. The NOPD still lacks the resources necessary to provide the people of New Orleans with the level of service they are entitled to. After replacing long-tenured members of the Civil Service Commission, Mayor Landrieu’s new Commissioners passed new rules that touched on many aspects of public, civil service employment. Many of these rule changes came at the urging of the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region. The introduction of the political influence resulting in the adoption of these new rules and political influence in hiring and promotions are exactly what the civil service provisions in the Louisiana Constitution sought to prevent. Now, the CAO, a political appointee of the Mayor seeks to have unprecedented control over promotions through the use of unchecked authority. This is the kind of political instability that keeps us from reaching manpower goals.

It is crucial that we, the people who live, work, and visit New Orleans, strive to maintain the integrity of the civil service system in New Orleans. In private employment, hiring and promotion decisions made for political reasons, or other unknown, questionable reasons, are taken care of by the market by benefitting the competition. In public employment, there is no competition. There is no market to regulate questionable employment decisions. The Legislature and the people of Louisiana put the regulation in the Louisiana Constitution.

The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police urges the city administration and the members of the Civil Service Commission to seriously consider the years of experience in public service its members and the members of IAFF Local 632 have. Our interest is only to enable the NOPD and NOFD to provide the best service to the people who live in, work in, and visit the City of New Orleans and to work toward a fair and equitable system of employment as governed by the Louisiana Constitution.

The Fraternal Order of Police is the world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, with more than 330,000 members in more than 2,200 lodges. There are about 6,000 FOP members in Louisiana, 2,000 of those in New Orleans. We are the voice of those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities. We are committed to improving the working conditions of law enforcement officers and the safety of those we serve through education, legislation, information, community involvement, and employee representation. No one knows the dangers and the difficulties faced by today’s police officers better than another officer, and no one knows police officers better than the FOP.

Donovan Livaccari