New Orleans Lieutenant Exam Candidate Review Sessions

On Monday, November 12, 2018, the New Orleans Civil Service Department sent test results from the recent Lieutenants Exam to the test takers. 74 NOPD Police Sergeants took the exam. Out of those 74, 51 passed the exam (69%) and 23 failed (31%). The highest score 94 and the lowest score was 20. The average score was 57 and 53 was the cut-off between pass and fail (the lowest passing score). The Lieutenants List can be found here.

Starting November 14, 2018, the Civil Service Department will begin having candidate feedback sessions with Ms. Bharati Belwalkar. Ms. Belwalkar is the Civil Service Department’s psychometrician who is dedicated to NOPD testing. The intent of this article is to try to give candidates a realistic idea of what to expect in that candidate feedback session.

First, the candidate feedback session is NOT an appeal of your score or a protest of any questions. Your score on the exam will NOT change as a result of the candidate feedback session. The purpose of the candidate feedback sessions is to help the candidate understand their areas of strength and improvement, and to better prepare for the next opportunity to take the exam.

You will NOT see the test questions, your answers, or how they were scored. You will be given information intended to help you focus your studies next time. If you know where your weakest areas were, then you will be able to prepare better next time.

The meeting, which will probably be recorded, will start off by reviewing the 3 main components of the exam: Part 1: In-Basket, Part 2: Structured Interview, and Part 3: Oral Presentation. All three of these components were equally weighted in calculating the candidate’s final score. You will see a graph that looks like this:

The graph shows each component of the exam, the highest score of each component, and the candidate’s score for each component. On the example above (not real test results), the candidate scored 67% on Part 1, 28% on Part 2, and 54% on Part 3. Clearly, the candidate did the best on Part 1 and the worst on Part 2. Ms. Belwalkar will discuss each component in terms of the candidate’s performance on the types of questions covered in it. If any of the raters had specific comments about the candidate’s answers, that information will be shared with the candidate.

Next, Ms. Belwalkar will go through the six competencies tested by the exam. Those competencies followed by the weight assigned to that competency are:

  1. Demonstrating Department’s Values (12%)
  2. Leadership and Supervisory Responsibility (26%)
  3. Operational Effectiveness (25%)
  4. Critical Thinking and Strategic Planning/Problem Solving and Decision Making (18%)
  5. Communicating Orally and/or in Writing (9%)
  6. Partnering with the Community (10%)

You will see another graph that looks like this:

Like the first graph, this graph shows the total percentage weight of each competency and the candidate’s percentage score for each competency. The example candidate profile indicates that the candidate demonstrated about 50% proficiency in every category. Because the competencies are weighted differently, it may be more important to strengthen up those areas, but it appears this candidate needs an equal amount of work across the board. Ms. Belwalkar will work with the candidate to make the information the most useful.

Finally, you will have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Remember, you will not have the opportunity to review your test answers, the scoring rubric, or the questions. I guess you can ask, but I would expect the answer to be that it can’t be shared. The reason for this is test security. Sometimes questions are re-used or are changed a little and then re-used. If the questions or answers to the questions were passed around, they would not be able to use any form of those questions again or risk the validity of the exam.

Each candidate’s answer was scored by 3 different raters who used a common rubric to score the exam. The 3 raters then discussed their ratings in order to eliminate error and reach a consensus score.

If you want to schedule a candidate review session, you can sign up for it here. If you have issues accessing this link, contact Ms. Belwalkar at 504-658-3508 or bbbelwalkar@nola.gov. Ms. Belwalkar is New Orleans Civil Service Personnel Administrator for the Test Development & Validation Division, working in the capacity of Senior Psychometrician.

We know that there are going to be at least 23 people who are not pleased with their test scores. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Civil Service Rules do not contain any process for appealing a score or how your exam was graded. When the exam contains a multiple-choice section, the Civil Service Department allows for protests of questions. In those circumstances, the protest is made before the exam is scored and the answer can be validated specifically by reviewing the appropriate text. In the event that a protest reveals a problem, the answer key can be changed or double-keyed to fix the problem. However, there was no multiple-choice section on this exam. The answers, and the scoring rubric, were developed in consultation with subject matter experts (SME’s) from the NOPD. The overall examination and its scoring rubric were reviewed by another group of NOPD SME’s to ensure accuracy and thoroughness. Since the types of questions and answers do not lend themselves to protest, none were allowed. Each exam was graded the same way by 3 different raters. The Civil Service Department has done there absolute best to make sure that everyone had the best chance to succeed.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Commander Louis Dabdoub for donating his time to help FOP help NOPD officers prepare for the exam. I also want to thank Travers Mackel of WDSU for helping candidates prepare for the exam. As usual, the FOP is dedicated to providing whatever assistance it can to help FOP members succeed.

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The FOP Legal Defense Plan and NOPD Discipline

The FOP Legal Defense Plan provides legal representation to its members for any criminal or civil action resulting from the performance of your duty as a law enforcement officer. The FOP Legal Plan also provides representation for any administrative investigation. Administrative investigations include disciplinary investigations, Accident Review Board cases, or Rule IX Hearings. In addition, the administrative coverage includes appeals to the Civil Service Commission, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, or the Louisiana Supreme Court, if needed.

The NOPD keeps hiring new officers and running academies on a regular basis. This means that there are always new officers coming out of the Academy who have not had any experience with the NOPD’s disciplinary system. I usually have the opportunity to introduce myself to soon-to-be Academy graduates at the Academy. I have a limited amount of time to introduce myself and explain a few things about the Legal Plan. This is my opportunity to explain a little more in depth. As always, you are welcome to call me if you have any questions.

The Consent Decree entered into by the City of New Orleans and the Department of Justice contains 13 pages that apply to disciplinary investigations. The one thing that has impacted the disciplinary system the most is the requirement that the NOPD investigate all complaints based on the allegation as opposed to the anticipated outcome. The NOPD has interpreted this to mean that they are going to investigate any complaint, regardless of its facial merit. The Consent Decree also formalized the NOPD policy to accept all complaints, whether they are in person, anonymous, from third parties, via email, etc. I had one case where someone in Australia didn’t think that an officer treated someone right based on an episode of a television show he saw. Finally, the Consent Decree limits the cases that can be disposed of as NIM (No Investigation Merited).

The Consent Decree initially led to an increase in the number of disciplinary investigations. However, with the use of body worn cameras, and tools such as Non-Disciplinary Counseling, Negotiated Settlement, and Mediation, the number of disciplinary investigations looks to have topped off and dropped a little the past few years. That being said, there are still more than 700 PIB Control numbers used every year.

First and foremost, I have a lot of people call and say “I hate to bother you with something this stupid…” Nothing is that stupid. Stupid things are stupid because 1) someone did something stupid and there is no explaining it away, or 2) someone made an allegation that is so ridiculous that you can’t possibly imagine it being sustained.

In the first case, where someone does something stupid – made a simple mistake or error – and there is nothing that can explain it away, there is certainly good reason to call. The FOP offers a benefit known as the Salary Reimbursement Option. No other organization offers anything like it. Here is how it works:

Salary Reimbursement Option (SRO)

The FOP Legal Defense Plan provides legal representation to its members so that they can defend themselves from accusations that constitute a violation of rules and regulations. This representation includes appeals, if necessary. However, sometimes you are accused of something that you did. For example, maybe it was one of those days and by the time the tenth person has lied to your face, you had enough and uttered a string of profanities. This string of profanities was recorded on your body worn camera. Now, you are accused of violating the NOPD’s rule on Courtesy (Rule 2, Paragraph 2). The complaint will be sustained.

Your FOP attorney will argue on your behalf. If there is a way out, we will explore that. If there is no way out, then we will argue for the least possible penalty. This is when the Salary Reimbursement Option comes into play.

IF you are represented by an FOP attorney and the penalty involves a suspension, you and your FOP attorney will have the opportunity to discuss your options moving forward. You probably have an option to appeal. However, IF you are represented by and FOP attorney AND you and your attorney agree that your chances of success on appeal are slim, then the FOP will reimburse you for any suspension days at $150/day for up to 5 days. That’s right – if you get a suspension for something that you did and you are not going to prevail on appeal, you can get a check for $150 per suspension day from the FOP in lieu of appeal. In short, instead of wasting money appealing a suspension you are not going to win, you have the option of cutting your losses and, hopefully, getting back to even. YOU MUST BE REPRESENTED BY AN FOP ATTORNEY DURING THE DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATION TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SALARY REIMBURSEMENT OPTION. You can only be represented by an FOP attorney for a disciplinary investigation if you pick up the phone and call.

If you aren’t calling because the allegation is stupid and there is no possible way it could be sustained, you should know that plenty of stupid allegations have led to sustained violations. Additionally, it keeps your options open for the Salary Reimbursement Options.

Do they need to notify you of a pending complaint?

No. The NOPD is not required to notify you that you are the subject of a complaint. Some investigators do notify the accused officers.

Many people find out about pending investigations when they receive a notice from the Civil Service Department of an upcoming hearing. The letter states that the Department has request an extension of time in pursuant to Civil Service Rule IX, Sec. 1.4. If you get one of those notices, then you are an accused officer in a formal disciplinary investigation.

Extension Request Hearings

The Louisiana Police Officer Bill of Rights, La. R.S. 40:2531(b)(7), provides that administrative disciplinary investigations have to be completed within 60 days. It also gives investigators the option of requesting up to another 60 days, for a maximum of 120 days to complete the investigation. The investigator needs to show good cause for the extra time.Unfortunately, just about any excuse serves as cause for the extension. The letter says that you have to attend. However, if you call me, I can handle that hearing for you. These hearings can be good opportunities to learn some information. You can also agree to the extension. There are times when agreeing to the extension may be in your best interest.

There are many other ins and outs to the disciplinary system. There are statements, disposition notices (NOPD Form 308), Pre-Dispositions Conference Hearing Notices, Pre-Disciplinary Hearing Notices, Pre-Dispositions Conferences, Pre-Disciplinary Hearings, Penalty Matrices, Disciplinary Letters, Civil Service appeals, other appeals, etc. I will cover those in the next post.

 

Unclassified Positions and Reform in the #NOPD

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Recently, I wrote about the New Orleans Police Department’s request to the New Orleans Civil Service Commission for the creation of 16 new unclassified jobs in the NOPD.  The NOPD made its pitch at the February 20, 2017 meeting of the Civil Service Commission and it received some media attention here and here.  The Civil Service department opposed the creation of these unclassified positions, referring to the request as “unprecedented.”  After hearing from the NOPD, myself, on behalf of the FOP, Capt. Mike Glasser, PANO, Lt. Keith Joseph, BOP, and a few others, the Civil Service Commission took no action to allow the Civil Service Department to complete its work and put the matter on the agenda for the March meeting (March 20 if anyone wants to accompany me on behalf of the FOP).

I do not intend to re-post my argument against the creation of the unclassified positions, but for those who have not had the chance to read this article or my letter to the Civil Service Commission in this regard, the Civil Service Rules, which have the force and effect of law, require that in order for a position to be considered unclassified, the job’s responsibilities are not appropriate for anyone in the classified service and should not be performed by anyone in the classified service.  Furthermore, someone serving in an unclassified position must have policy-making authority which is not subject to further review or modification.  Finally, the Civil Service Commission is required to audit the position regularly to make sure that it is still not fit for the classified service.  As both Superintendent Harrison and myself made a point of saying, unclassified positions are the exception to the rule in a merit-based system of employment like Civil Service.

Currently, there is no “Commander” position, really.  There is a “Commander” assignment.  The Commander assignment, which must be filled by someone holding the rank of Police Lieutenant or higher, comes with a special rate of pay.  While I am unaware of anyone actually pushing this particular issue, the NOPD stated that one of the reasons we need to reconsider this special rate of pay is that a special rate of pay does not confer any grant of authority.  So, the question is does a Police Lieutenant in the position of Commander have the authority to issue orders to a Police Major?  While I am unaware of anyone pushing this issue, there are reasons to reconsider the use of a special rate of pay for commanders.  The majority of people assigned to Commander positions are in the rank of Police Lieutenant.  Police Lieutenants are non-exempt employees.  That means they should make overtime like all other non-exempt personnel under the FLSA.  However, they do not get overtime.  They are currently being treated as exempt employees.  While their pension is controlled by their actual rate of pay, terminal leave is paid to these individuals based on their Civil Service classification.  Finally, it is just an abuse of the special rate of pay provisions.  This special rate of pay scheme was put in place in 2011 after the Civil Service Commission told then Superintendent Serpas that he could not have 16 unclassified Police Colonel positions.

So, if the positions were not fit to be unclassified in 2011, what has changed that would make them appropriate today?  Well, while not answering the preceding question, Superintendent Harrison said that Department of Justice report which led to the current Consent Decree indicted the prior leadership “had largely acquiesced to wide-spread abuses by officers at all ranks.”  Superintendent Harrison went on to praise the accomplishments of individuals currently in the position of Commander.  Finally, the Superintendent insisted that it was critical that he be able to “swiftly replace leaders who are not performing to standard.”

What is exceedingly clear from the arguments made by Superintendent Harrison is that the NOPD has some good leaders in the position of Commander and that Commanders are performing the jobs previously held by officers in the classified service and that Commanders do not have the type of policy-making authority that is not subject to further review or modification.  What is clearly lacking is any logical connection between the existence of the Commander special rate of pay and any of the accomplishments of the folks holding those positions.

During the meeting, Commissioner Stephen Caputo, the newest member of the Civil Service Commission, noted that on several instances in my letter to the Commission I stated the position of Commander had been historically held by Police Captains and Police Majors.  He then asked if I was advocating for the status quo, or doing things as they have always been done.

My response was that I was not arguing for the status quo, but that the Civil Service Rules require that the job responsibilities be unfit for performance by anyone in the classified service.  History shows us that prior to 2011, the job responsibilities were performed by employees in the classified service.  Nothing has changed to make the jobs unfit for the classified service.

That does not mean that we have to maintain the status quo.  For example, the NOPD has the longest working-test period for employees.  Working-test periods, otherwise known as probationary periods, are set at 6 months in the Civil Service Rules with a maximum of 1 year.  The NOPD has 1-year working-test periods across the board.  That means that if someone is promoted to the rank of Police Captain and is unable to meet expectations, they can be demoted to their prior classified position — for just about any reason.  Generally speaking, if someone is incapable of performing a job, that incompetence will reveal itself within a year.  My point is that before we go shopping for a new toolbox, maybe we should make sure that we are making the best use of the tools we already have.

Civil Service Commission Chair Michelle Craig said that the Commission wanted the opportunity to examine best practices.  While the idea of “best practices” aggravates me to no end, I was fascinated by Superintendent Harrison’s reply that NOPD was re-writing the best practices and, therefore, what they are doing is the de facto best practice.

In today’s environment of instant gratification, we have to be able to point out real-time problems to demonstrate why these ideas that run contrary to the civil service philosophy should be avoided.  That is an impractical demand.  However, make no doubt about it, it is coming.  There will be a discriminatory application of the “Great Place to Work Initiative,” if there hasn’t been one already.  The creation of 16 unclassified Commander positions, would eventually prove problematic.

The first merit-based civil service system can be traced back to Imperial China and Emperor Wen of Sui (AD 605).  It wasn’t until the 1940’s that Louisiana embraced the civil service system.  Even then, it was repealed in 1948 and re-established in 1952.  Since then, more than a few changes have been made to how civil service systems are administered.  However, the idea of a merit-based system of employment utilizing objective standards and competitive testing has persisted.

So, while I am not advocating doing things as we did them in 1992, I am advocating the maintenance of the underlying set of guiding principles which have served us well for a long time.  We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.  We don’t ditch democracy just because there is a more efficient way to administer the Department of Education.  The New Orleans Civil Service Commission has taken some steps recently which are downright scary.  The “Great Place to Work Initiative” dismissed important civil service principles relating to promotions and competitive exams.  Of course, the NOPD would point to successes of newly promoted sergeants or lieutenants as if that is the result of the new system in some way.  If you are thinking they wouldn’t do that, that is exactly what they are doing with the Commander position.  Granting the NOPD 16 unclassified positions to replace the special rate of pay for Commanders would be counter to the underlying fundamentals of the civil service system.  Does that mean it has to be done the old way?  No.  It just means it shouldn’t be done the way the NOPD has proposed.

New Orleans Civil Service Commission Meeting 2/20/2017

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The New Orleans Civil Service Commission is set to hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday, February 20, 2017.  At that meeting, the Commission will consider a request by the New Orleans Police Department to add 16 unclassified positions.  These 16 unclassified positions would seek to legitimize the position of Commander, which is currently a special rate of pay based on the assignment as commander of one of the Department’s 16 divisions.

The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police opposes this request.  In short, the Department should use classified positions wherever possible.  This protects the employee, the public, and the integrity of the system.  Since the beginning of time until Chief Serpas’s recent tenure as Superintendent, these positions have generally been held by officers holding the classified rank of Police Captain and Police Major.  Those classifications are still available.

The use of Police Captain and Police Major for these positions not only shores up the integrity of the system, but provides officers with a well-defined career path.  As it stands today, these positions are being held by Police Lieutenants who have no job security.  So, the administration can cut their pay significantly for any number of unlisted reasons.

This, along with the changes made to the recent promotional system, has taken much of the fairness out of the promotional system of the NOPD and left it vulnerable to the type of political interference the Civil Service system was designed to eliminate.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.

First Amendment for Public Employees Update

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I was recently contacted by a law enforcement officer asking if I was aware of a case out of North Carolina which ruled in favor of some police officers in regard to a disciplinary action involving posts made to Facebook.  I was aware of this case and I think it is important to put this in context for FOP members in Louisiana.  First and foremost, it is important to recognize that this case, Hebert E. Liverman and Vance R. Richards v. City of Petersburg, et al, 2016 WL 7240179 (not yet published) ,comes out of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.  This is important because the case does not constitute binding precedent for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit — Louisiana’s court.  This case could be persuasive precedent, but it is not binding.  That means the argument could be adopted by the Fifth Circuit if a similar case were to be brought here, but the court does not have to adopt it.

More particularly, two officers of the City of Petersburg Bureau of Police were disciplined with an oral reprimand and 6 months of probation for violating the department’s regulations on social media.  The department’s regulations on social media read as follows:

J.A. 161 – Negative comments on the internal operations of the Bureau, or specific conduct of supervisors or peers that impacts the public’s perception of the department is not protected b the First Amendment free speech clause, in accordance with established case law.

J.A. 162 – Officers may comment on issues of general or public concern (as opposed to personal grievances) so long as the comments do not disrupt the workforce, interfere with important working relationships or efficient work flow, or undermine public confidence in the officer.  The instances much be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Generally, Liverman made a post on Facebook expressing his opinion on rookie officers being assigned as instructors for his department.  Richards replied to Liverman’s post expanding on that post discussing new officers being placed in specialized units.  Liverman replied again and Richards again replied to Liverman’s reply.

In short, the court held that the Supreme Court set forth how to analyze whether a public employee’s speech was protected speech in its rulings in Pickering and Connick.  There are three questions that have to be answered:

  1. Was the employee speaking as a member of the public on a matter of public concern?
  2. Does the employee’s interest in First Amendment expression outweigh the employer’s interest in the efficient operation of the workplace?
  3. Was the protected speech a substantial factor in the employer’s decision to take adverse employment action?

The Fourth Circuit came to the conclusion that the officers were, in fact, speaking as members of the public on a matter of public concern.  The court went on to conclude that the second and third prongs of the test set forth in Pickering and Connick were also met, making the Facebook comments protected speech.

More importantly, the court held that the regulations themselves were unconstitutionally overbroad.  The reasoning of the court was that the regulations constituted prior restraint of protected speech.  As evidenced by this case, the regulations did lead to discipline of protected speech.

Many of you may have regulations similar to the regulations at issue in this case.  It has long been my belief that these regulations are overbroad and I still think that they are.  This case supports my contention that they are overbroad.  The NOPD regulation on social media reads as follows:

Employees shall not post any material on the internet including but not limited to photos, videos, word documents, etc. that violates any local state or federal law, and/or embarrasses, humiliates, discredits or harms the operations and reputation of the Police Department or any of its members.

It is my opinion that this regulation suffers the same constitutional shortcoming identified in the Petersburg case.  However, the Petersburg case means does not control what happens in Louisiana.  We may, one day, have a chance to argue for a similar ruling here.  But until that happens, please be careful with posts made to Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Warning from a Chicago Police Officer

The superintendent of the Chicago Police Department recently said a badly beaten female officer told him she didn’t shoot her attacker for fear of news coverage and retaliation against her family. I scrolled down to read the story’s comment section and saw some speculation that the statement wasn’t true. The argument was made that it’s counter-intuitive for an armed person not to shoot a life-threatening attacker. Had I not repeatedly heard, seen and read this same concern from retired and active officers, I’d agree her story seemed far fetched.

But in an era where riots are held honoring cop beaters and shooters, it’s not too much of a stretch to hear officers willing to endure severe thrashings instead of living in seclusion for the rest of their lives. In the name of sins past and present, real and imagined, police officers are now tried in a court of public opinion. Sadly, it’s not law abiding citizens trying policing.

Often, delusional social justice warriors from outside urban centers unite with career criminals and enabling activists to declare any police use of force, or the institution itself, racist without exception.

Law abiding citizens, in all communities, should heed this warning from a Chicago police officer. If law enforcement second guesses itself while under attack, everyone loses our supposedly inalienable right of self-defense. That’s hardly a path to peace in the streets.

-Nadra Enzi aka Cap Black, Your UrbanSafetyist. @nadraenzi on twitte

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.

#NOPD Promotion Appeals

The NOPD promoted 18 sergeants to lieutenant and 8 police officers to sergeant on July 24, 2015. Many people have inquired about lawsuits and appeals regarding these promotions. The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police is taking the following actions.

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#NOPD: Over the Precipice

NOPD: Over the Precipice

It will take over 40 years to return to full strength

The New Orleans Police Department has gone over the precipice. We may be beyond the point of return. And the blame rests clearly at the feet of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. They were both forewarned.

In February 2011, the Fraternal Order of Police issued the first hue and cry about the NOPD manpower crisis. For three years, in every news story and interview possible, we have repeated the mantra….”Manpower….Manpower…Manpower”. We have advocated the repeal of the domicile ordinance and we have opposed the tattoo policy. We have asked that the focus be turned to retention and the recruitment of fully trained, post certified lateral police officers.

In February 2011 there were 1415 commissioned New Orleans police officers.

Today, there are 1135 sworn officers – counting from Superintendent down to Field Recruit. Over 100 of those are unable to perform their duties due to serious injury, long-term illness or administrative reassignment.

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Great Place to Work (At least it used to be…)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has submitted a request to the Civil Service Commission that it consider 32 rule changes at its April 21, 2014 meeting.  This is the second attempt to “reform” the civil service system in New Orleans.

Former Civil Service Commissioner Jerry Davis posted the following comment on NOLA.COM regarding the proposed changes:

From the moment Landrieu began packing the Civil Service Commission with his sycophants and cronies, the handwriting was on the wall. As a Tulane graduate, I will never forgive Scott Cowen for his perfidy in surrendering his appointment power; the body which ultimately resulted has completely violated its duty to enforce the basic elements of the merit system. (Full disclosure: I am a forty-year veteran of the Civil Service Department, and had the honor of serving on the Commission before its ‘reinvention’.)

The basic lies about the Civil Service process are repeated in Landrieu’s arguments for this change:

1. Department heads’ authority – whenever vacancies occur, the department heads have always been consulted about the appropriate qualifications; they are also asked to provide updated lists of duties to be performed. Many executives, especially in the current administration cannot be bothered to provide accurate job descriptions or take the time to consider appropriate qualifications – preferring instead, to borrow and paraphrase Mr. Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography, “I’ll know the proper qualifications when I see them in an applicant.”

2. Flexibility in hiring and promotion – department heads have always had the authority to move beyond the ‘Rule of 3’ by passing over a person three times, or documenting reasons.

The losers in this seizure of power are of course the citizens and loyal employees of New Orleans – both as taxpayers who will pay the inevitable costs of turnover, retraining and incompetent service, and as applicants, who will not gain the positions they aspire to because they have not kissed the proper rings.

And so we are condemned to learn again the lessons of the 1880s, when the novel concept of merit in hiring for government service was born.

Civil Service was the reform.  Louisiana thought so highly of the civil service system that it included it in the Louisiana Constitution so that it could only be removed by a vote of the people as opposed to legislators who might want to return to the days of the spoils system.  Mayor Landrieu’s proposed changes erode the foundation of that reform that was so thoughtfully introduced years ago.

Mayor Landrieu would have you believe that his proposals are merely “modernizing” ciivil service.  As former Commissioner Davis points out, implementation of this plan will violate the basic tenets of the merit system.

The Administration underestimated the opposition the first time around.  This time, it is clear that Mayor Landrieu is “all in” on jamming these “reforms” down the throats of his civil servants.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with these issues.  They will be considered at the April 21, 2014 meeting of the Civil Service Commission.  More information to follow.

Mayor Landrieu’s propaganda can be found here.  Take it for what it is worth.

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