NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — In March 2023, officers with the New Orleans Police Department received retention bonuses approved by the city council. However, not all of that actually ended up with the officers.

According to City Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño, there was an attorney general opinion that stated the city owed pension contributions to the Municipal Police Employee’s Retirement System on the retention payments.

In May 2023, the city filed a lawsuit against MPERS in an effort to keep that money within the retention funds.

“Almost 8% of that, so a significant amount of money went to MPERS,” Montaño said. “We do not believe this is pensionable and we hope to recoup that money for the officers.”

In July 2022, when the city council approved the retention and recruitment payments, Joe Giarrusso and JP Morrell were both concerned officers would leave after receiving their payment.

WGNO obtained a copy of the officers who received a bonus and who of the 898 officers left the department after taking the payment. Only a fraction of the officers parted ways with the NOPD.

“We’ve seen the surveys,” Morrell said. “Money’s not the issue. This department is junk.”

WGNO spoke to a handful of the officers who left the department after taking the extra pay and they agree.

One unnamed officer said, “Conditions at the NOPD were deteriorating due to the unfortunate exodus of police officers. I did not believe that the state of the department would get better or improve any time soon due to more and more police officers leaving the job, so I decided to respectfully leave the job also.”

That’s why Montaño said the city put an effort into dispersing funds across the NOPD.

“We also invested millions of dollars into new police cars. That was a big issue for them. A new take home car policy which was also a big deal for them,” Montaño said. “Officer uniforms, certain trainings, upgrading our facility, civilianization pieces.”

The CAO added, the city also started working on a plan to allow for more freedoms such as growing a beard, which was not allowed before.

As far as the lawsuit, according to Morrell, even if the city wins, it may not be enough to keep numbers climbing.

“When I talk to officers who stayed, I hear three things,” Morrell said. “Maybe the city will win this lawsuit, I’ll get my $4,000, then I’ll leave. Maybe there’ll be another bonus, then I’ll leave. The biggest thing I hear is ‘we’re waiting to see what happens with the chief search.'”

Montaño said his team is also waiting to see who the next chief will be before making any other major decisions to boost morale at the NOPD.

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