By Rob Masson | WVUE | July 7, 2021
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Faced with low manpower levels, and rising crime, two groups ask the Cantrell administration to do more when it comes to the hiring and retention of police officers.
They want the city to follow the president’s recommendation and tap into Covid relief money, but that seems unlikely.
The New Orleans Police Department is now hovering at around 1100 officers and if trends hold it could lose 70 more by year’s end.
“I have records that go back to 1978 and this is the lowest complement of police officers since 78 and the numbers are declining,” said Rafael Goyaneche, with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
14 officers retired last month alone, 11 with over 30 years of experience.
“The best-recruiting tools for any police department are the officers who work there now. So the more problems you have with morale caused by lack of promotions, manpower, or safety issues they lend to people not being satisfied with their employment which lends to them not being good recruiters for the department and that impacts recruitment and it’s an ongoing vicious cycle,” said Donovan Livaccari, with the Fraternal Order of Police.
The F.O.P. and the Crime commission are asking the city to tap into covid relief money, as recommended by the White House, to boost troop strength through hiring new officers and retaining old ones.
“Last year there were about 96 departures from the department, as of two weeks ago there were 80 departures so we’re gonna blow past last year’s numbers that’s why I’m calling for pay raises,” said Goyaneche.
The fraternal order of police says the New Orleans Police Department lost 400 years of experience last month alone and they say retaining experienced officers is as important, or even more so than hiring new ones.
“There is no replacing those guys who have been on the job for 30 or 40 years, that kind of experience is almost impossible to replace,” said Livaccari.
When it comes to tapping into Covid relief money, the city says most of it is already spoken for.
“It’s not extra money, it’s money on top…just a piece to fill a loss revenue gap,” said New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano.
The city says it will work on officer retention through the budget process, and it says it is hiring new officers at a time and other departments are laying off
“One of the things New Orleans and the Cantrell administration was insisting on was we would not stop hiring, we have 14 graduates on Friday and 25 later this year,” said Montano, who also says there were 23 NOPD recruit graduates earlier this year.
But the F.O.P and the Metropolitan Crime Commission say it is not enough.
“Every day we delay in hiring more officers and rebuilding the force to about 1450 officers, we are putting the public in jeopardy,” said Goyaneche.
And he says the time to act is now.
Rafael Goyeneche says the department is also hurting itself by not using things like facial recognition and license plate scanning technology. Things that he says are being used in police departments all over the US and here in Louisiana.
NOPD superintendent Shaun Ferguson put out a statement, saying, ‘ It is no secret law enforcement agencies around the country are facing recruitment and retention issues.
In our case, however, the Cantrell Administration has continued to push for and allowed hiring by NOPD during some difficult financial times while many cities have not.
We as a department will continue to work to identify ways in which we can retain our officers.’