NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison defends his decision to pull officers from Municipal Court to send them to the streets. The move Monday shut down all sections of court but one, over safety concerns.
"My top priority is making sure every neighborhood in the City of New Orleans is safe," Harrison said.
With that goal in mind, the chief pulled 22 officers out of various positions across the city, to help with the manpower issue facing the department. While some officers come from areas like the district attorney's office and city sanitation department, three were taken from Municipal Court.
Chief Judge Desiree Charbonnet says, "We were allowed to keep one which is the officer for my section, so section C will be the only court operating today because it's the only court in which there will be the adequate police security for that courtroom."
Charbonnet says she wasn't given enough warning that the officers would be removed and the entity that's supposed to be taking over, the constable's office, claims it's not trained to handle such duties.
"Fear runs through my mind because you've got the general public, you've got victims of crime you've got perpetrators you've got serious criminals coming through court. It's just, you've got to have order in Municipal Court. You've got to have police security," Charbonnet explained.
Harrison contends he has an obligation to put as many NOPD officers on the streets as possible. "I've heard the complaints at all the meetings I attend about long wait times and response times and safety issues on the part of the officers and so right now we're addressing all of those issues together," Harrison said.
In fact, Harrison says he's looking to find even more officers for street patrols, explaining, "I'm diving even further into the police department and there are other positions that I'm asking civil service to allocate to the police department by way of civilian positions and we will interview and hire folks as we can to fill those positions as well."
But the question of what happens to Municipal Court remains unanswered. The court handles 28,000 cases a year which is 80 percent of all arrests made by the NOPD.
A spokesman for Mayor Landrieu says the city has money to pay the constable's office to man the courtrooms but in addition to not being trained for the job, Constable Lambert Boissiere says he also doesn't have enough bodies to send to patrol the courthouse.