NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city's ongoing robbery and murder problems undoubtedly demand police attention. But with a smaller police force, a local state lawmaker said it is time for investigators in the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office to have more law enforcement authority.
"It will allow our NOPD officers to continue to fight crime," said Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
Badon has filed HB 179, which would grant investigators in the Orleans Parish DA's Office arrest powers. The DA's office said it has 32 investigators.
"Right now they have to be peace officers, they have to be post-certified, so they have all of the same powers and privileges of police officers except for arrest powers," Badon said.
Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission said the legislation would be helpful.
"Historically, the investigators for the DA's Office were NOPD officers, and over the years with the declining numbers of police those officers have been withdrawn from the DA's Office. So those positions have been back-filled with people that have law enforcement experience. They've retired, so you've got NOPD officers over there - former State Police - but they don't have the authority to arrest," he said.
The district attorney is is on board with the idea.
Assistant District Attorney Christoper Bowman issued the following statement:
"They do investigative things such as checking people for embezzlement, contractor fraud which is a big issue in this community," said Badon.
And Goyeneche said the D-A's investigators will have some advantages before they make any arrests.
"They will be consulting with ADA's to make sure that there's probable cause and the justification to make an arrest, so unlike police officers that maybe have to make a decision on their own these investigators will be getting the insight, and the overview of the prosecutors that will be handling these cases," said Goyeneche.
And if a majority of the state legislature agrees, the investigators would be granted arrest powers.
Tyler, spokesman for the NOPD said, "We have not reviewed the proposed legislation yet, and are not able to take a position one way or the other at this time."