Council Member Fears NOPD Could Dip Below 1,000 Officers

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“Then we’re looking at being down to under a thousand by the end of the year even with two full recruit classes,” New Orleans Councilwoman Susan Guidry said Wednesday afternoon.

She was referring to the number of NOPD officers on the force, and she showed Superintendent Ronal Serpas how she reached her conclusion which also included estimates for officer retirements an resignations.

Serpas appeared before the council’s Criminal Justice Committee and told the members that the NOPD currently has 1166 officers.

Both the superintendent and council members discussed ways to boost those numbers.

Guidry and LaToya Cantrell suggested the department consider easing its hiring standards.  They say the requirement that an officer have 60 hours of college credits could prevent some candidates from applying.  But Serpas told the council that department policy prevents hiring people younger than 20-years old — and since those are the years when someone would normally attend college — relaxing the 60 hour requirement would do little to attract recruits.

Guidry also asked if more officers who normally work in supervisory or desk positions could be pulled to patrol the city’s streets.  Serpas said those officers are too busy with their current responsibilities to add any additional duties.  He also referred to the much discussed federal government review of the department, which Serpas said, highlighted a need for proper supervision on the department.

Serpas offered other ideas.  He said his officers spend plenty of time serving the community.  But he said much of their work has nothing to do with crimes.  He said his officers spend as much as 10% of their time responding to automatic burglar alarms.

“They’re all false.  And then you’ve got automobile accidents.  And then you’ve got barking dogs.  And then you’ve got all these issues.  My kid won’t eat their dinner.  Junior won’t do his homework,” Serpas said.  He said cities around the country are taking a new look at what the responsibilities should be of their police officers.

The residency requirement was also mentioned.  Serpas said that currently41% of his officers live outside of New Orleans.

The superintendent also brought up a less publicized issue that he says is having an impact on recruiting.  Officers can avoid the 60 hours of college credit requirement if they have two years military service.  But Serpas said, because of the nation’s work in Baghdad, Afghanistan, and other places, fewer members of the military are serving for just one enlistment term.  He says when they finally do retire from the military, fewer are at an age when they would consider becoming police officers.

Council members hope two recruit classes this year will bolster the department’s ranks.

Along with hiring more officers, the number of 911 operators is expected to be increased from 36 to 55 by the end of the year.