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Police groups wants NOPD exempted from domicile law

The City Council will vote this week on a set of amendments designed to clarify the city's domicile ordinance.  

The ordinance requires city employees hired after the end of last year to live within Orleans Parish.  But some groups say firefighters and police officers should be exempt from the rule.

On January 1, the City of New Orleans re-instated the law requiring city employees to live in Orleans Parish. The law had been shelved after Katrina.  Since reinstatement, the law has been met with lots of confusion and resistance.

On Monday, the council's governmental affairs committee met at City Hall to discuss the ordinance.  

Raymond Burkart III, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, said at the meeting, "The problem with the domicile law has to do with recruitment and hiring. the domicile un-necessarily limits the New Orleans Police Department's applicant pool."

Burkart says the department faces a critical manpower shortage.

Eric Hessler, the attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, points out that many current officers, including John Passaro, shot last week in the line of duty, live outside the parish and can still perform their duties.

"His ability to do his job, his willingness to do his job, his integrity and his professionalism in doing his job had absolutely nothing to do with his residency," Hessler commented.

A member of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration says current employees shouldn't worry, because they'll be grandfathered in.  But there are strict rules in place.

"If you are domiciled in Jefferson, then you are grandfathered at that address in Jefferson," said Eric Granderson, director of local government affairs.  That means if a person is up for promotion and decides to move to another location, they will lose eligibility for the promotion.

Council President Stacy Head drafted a number of amendments to the current law, including giving new hires 180 days to find housing in Orleans Parish.

The Landrieu administration is also suggesting an amendment that would exempt part-time employees from the domicile law.

The FOP and PANO are hoping their officers will be exempt too. Burkart explains, "An officer who lives in the New Orleans East 7th District may actually be further away from his duty station in the 2nd District.  It may take longer to get to work than if he or she lived in Jefferson Parish or possibly in Slidell."

Some council members say having more officers living in Orleans Parish increases their visibility. "I had a police officer that's moved in next door and she works in the district in which I live and it is a huge difference. It is a benefit, especially considering my neighborhood had another murder last week," said councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer.

The full council will vote on all of the amendments to this ordinance at their Thursday meeting.

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