Civil Service Study: NOPD Pay lacking

The police association scores two big wins. One deals with police pay; the other with the subject of a FOX 8 investigation two years ago.

It comes as the New Orleans Police Department aggressively recruits to gain more officers.

Chief Ronal Serpas said the current 27-member academy class is making steady progress. And he said he's got 15 people committed to 2014's second recruit class, which should begin Sept 2.

"The class in now will graduate in November, and by November we will have another recruit class ready to go, and we will start a third class in November or early December of 2014," Serpas said.

But there are still fewer officers in the NOPD than there have been in decades, and some predict a dip below 1,000 officers by the end of the year.

"And it's not just due to pay - we had a surplus in the department because we couldn't bring enough officers in," said Councilman Jason Williams.

"I don't think there's any question that if you can have a pay package that's superior, it makes a difference," said Serpas.

Now the Civil Service Commission is out with a new report that shows New Orleans police recruiting efforts may be suffering because pay is below the regional average.

"In the end, that's what's going to keep people here or drive them away," said Police Association President Michael Glasser.

The report shows that NOPD recruits make $37,150 a year, about 2 1/2 percent less than the region. And NOPD  lieutenants make $65,450 a year, over 19 percent below the regional average of nearly $81,000 a year.

PANO now hopes that civil service will make a recommendation to the City Council in an effort to boost the ranks and slow attrition.

PANO said the department is losing one officer every 60 hours.

"I've talked to a lot of officers. It's not just pay, it's a morale issue. Some believe it's a leadership issue," said Williams.

Serpas said pay is important, but so are other issues.

"When men and women are thinking about a department, they look around, they see a new Fifth District station - that's an investment. They see new cars," said Serpas.

"In the end, it's 'What do I bring home? What do I give my family?'" said Glasser.

And Glasser hopes if the council acts on new pay recommendations, troop strength may finally improve.

In a FOX 8 follow-up, civil service has also ruled that the NOPD must give six captains and a major new duties consistent with their job classifications, or reduce their ranks. Currently the captains and major are relegated to duties in a trailer in City Park.

PANO said that's a victory, because senior management was marginalized when they were assigned to the trailer three years ago.

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