City Council to reconsider Orleans residency rule - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

City Council to reconsider Orleans residency rule

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Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson talks to a member of the Landrieu administration after the residency rule discussion. Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson talks to a member of the Landrieu administration after the residency rule discussion.

NEW ORLEANS - In a city where even young children are not safe from rampant gunfire, the NOPD maintains that it needs more police officers. Some members of the City Council think suspending the residency requirement - at least temporarily - is a way to help the Police Department hire more officers in the near future.

"Do we want them here in the city? Of course. But do we want to get them enough help to do the job and to curb this murder rate further? Yes," said Councilwoman-at-Large Jackie Clarkson.

Clarkson is co-sponsoring an ordinance to suspend the domicile rule for one year to benefit not only potential new hires for the NOPD, but also for the New Orleans Fire Department and EMS.

The council's Criminal Justice Committee discussed the ordinance for hours, and then in a close vote decided to send it to the full council for consideration.

"We want to test it for a year and see if it does work to be a recruiting tool," Clarkson said.

The NOPD currently has 1,207 officers, according to a letter Chief Ronal Serpas sent to the council committee. Serpas would like to have at least 1,575 officers.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed 2014 budget released earlier this week calls for five classes of police trainees next year.

The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation is helping the department recruit new officers.

"We cannot give the police chief a tool box with no tools in it," said Jon Casbon, a founder of the Police and Justice Foundation. "We've got to load him up now and hold him accountable."

In the letter Serpas sent to the council, he wrote that lifting the domicile rule would improve the department's efforts to hire experienced officers from neighboring jurisdictions. Such officers would be able to hit the streets sooner than rookies.

But some on the council believe there are many qualified candidates currently living in the city, but they are being overlooked.

"I refuse to believe that we can't find 150 people from this city who will be highly qualified great policemen, and we have just somehow failed to recruit them, and we need to look at what we're doing to try to do that," said Councilman James Gray.

Gray also questioned why the representatives of the Police and Justice Foundation who showed up for the meeting did not reflect more of the city's racial makeup.

"It's not just what you look like, it's what you understand about the people you're trying to talk to," he said.

When asked about Gray's concerns about recruiting efforts, Clarkson denied that certain segments of the community are not getting a fair shot.

"Not at all," she said. "The recruiting since Katrina has been primarily on local African Americans, and there is no exclusion here in the police's recruiting. The emphasis is not color, it's not culture, it's not race."

The full council is expected to vote on the ordinance Thursday.

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