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NOPD officers call mandatory test a waste of resources

Despite Mayor Mitch Landrieu's push to throw out the NOPD consent decree on the grounds that the city can't afford both it and a jail consent decree, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas says he and the mayor are on the same page.

"I absolutely support what he's doing to get the people of New Orleans in the mix and involved in the debate, because we are going to have to pay for it and we are going to fix the police department," says Chief Serpas.

The police consent decree lays out 147 items that need to change within the department.  A reform status report, just released, says 60 are already complete, another 80 are under way.

The report highlights marked improvements, from building new police stations to rebuilding the homicide unit and revolutionize the crime lab.  It details how the firearms unit has cleared a test fire backlog with more officers being trained in ballistics testing.

The report highlights changes in evidence processing, technology upgrades and accountability improvements.  It points to 52 officer arrests and 458 disciplinary actions since May of 2010.

It also highlights a dramatic increase in training, although many argue officers need even more training, especially when it comes to making stops.

Now some question why knowledge of the changing NOPD outlined in this report falls into that training category.

Chief Serpas says the answer is simple.  "I'll tell you one of the things that frustrates me to no end," says Serpas. "I still hear the culture say the crime lab can't do that or we don't have the training for something else, when that's not the case at all."

As part of in-service training for 2013, every NOPD officer must now take a test on what's in the new reform status report.  

A spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police says it's been flooded with complaints from officers already dealing with a manpower shortage and strained resources.

"Our officers are trained to do police work, not public relations through statistics," says Raymond Burkart, III. "They're incredibly disappointed. They want real police training."

Officers must read and learn 32 pages full of dates, initiatives, statistics and other important information.  

The FOP questions why.  Burkart says, "The question is, how does it help the average citizen in crisis? It doesn't. How does it help officers on pro-active patrols? It doesn't."

Chief Serpas strongly disagrees, saying, "For example, a police officer is on a scene and they don't know about all the strides made in firearms testing. They might not pay attention to criminal evidence right in front of them, because of the perception that the department's not capable. Well now they'll know."

The three-part test is made up of multiple choice and true-false questions.  Officers must re-take the test until they score 100 percent.

Burkart says officers who are already spread thin are concerned.  He says "A lot of our officers who are having trouble finding time to take the test, because they're out doing police work, are worried they are going to get disciplined for not passing a packet of propaganda."

Chief Serpas says he's made the very necessary process an easy one.  "It's an open book test. We don't take the paperwork away from them," says Serpas. "You can get graduate degrees from finest universities in the country. There's no reason in the world officers shouldn't know about their department to understand the difference between myth and reality, which might change a decision they make."

Officers have until April 13 to complete the test online.

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