NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— Which is more important—hiring new police officers or retaining the ones who are on the force already? The New Orleans City Council is deciding next year’s city budget.

The City has millions of dollars to spend on the NOPD and how to spend it got heated inside Council Chambers today.

The City Council has already approved a 5% increase in pay for police officers and an additional $5,000 every 5 years up to 20 years. Recruitment remains the department’s focus, but council members challenged the NOPD—feeling that the money in their budget might be better spent on retaining the officers they do have.

“We are re-imagining in regards to staffing, we are investing in our officers, and we are addressing violent crime,” Supt. Shaun Fergusin with the NOPD said.

In order to address the violent crime properly, the NOPD obviously needs more officers, so a big part of their 2023 budget which they presented to the City Council involves recruitment efforts. NOPD’s requesting a $21-million budget for the upcoming year.

“In this budget document we are asking the Council to work with us to be supportive as we make groundbreaking changes,” Supt. Ferguson said.

Those changes include a $30-thousand recruit incentive package to be paid out over a 3-year period.

“Are we setting up a future Mayor and a future Police Department and Council to work with a devastated department when all the bonuses wear off,” JP Morrell, Councilmember At Large said.

“For New Orleans to be remotely competitive we have to have an incentive or some sort of package because the other cities that we are competing against have them,” Gilbert Montano, Chief Administrative Officer said.

The City Council argued that no where in the incentive package does it take into consideration cost of living increases over time or retirement plans. Though the NOPD says there’s a $10-thousand retention bonus paid in 2025.

“Make sure that the men and women of the NOPD are actually getting paid money that goes into retirement, rather than these gimmicks, keeping them here momentarily. We aren’t investing in them,” Morrell said.

“This is a short term plan to get bodies and officers in the department,” Montano said.

“We are talking about putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound,” Morrell said.

“We acknowledge there is still more work to be done and we are willing to do that work,” Supt. Ferguson said.