For the first time in over a year, the New Orleans Police Department has launched a new recruit class. The chief hopes it's the first of many. While the mayor says the department has turned the corner, others say much more manpower is needed.
These recruits are well educated on average and will study longer than the officers who went before.
"We have an educated recruit class in here today," said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. "A lot of people with degrees and military experience, exactly what we're looking for."
All have either 60 hours of college credit under their belt or two years of military experience. And over the next six months they will take nearly 300 more classroom hours of training than recruits did two years ago. Courses cover everything from sensitivity to active shooter training, as well as community policing and a basic understanding of the federal consent decree for the department.
"Things are getting better," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "We're hiring new police officers, adding new equipment and working through all the difficult issues that have been here for the last 15 years."
But even with this new recruit class, and possibly two more this year, the department is going to fall well short of its manpower goals.
The department lost over 120 officers in 2012, and though the attrition rate is down slightly this year, the NOPD will likely end 2013 with just over 1,200 officers.
"At this point we should have had 1,500 officers," said Tamara Jackson with the anti-crime group Silence is Violence.
She says 300 more officers would go a long way: "There's definitely a manpower shortage... a lot of officers are compromised with their work and their effort for community."
NOPD is beefing up recruitment, in hopes of starting as many as six new classes in addition to this one by the end of 2014.
"We're about to announce with the Police and Justice Foundation an ad campaign that's going to be Internet-based," said Superintendent Serpas.
The first recruit class of 2013 will undergo six months of training before graduation day, sometime around Thanksgiving.