NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Thirty-two new recruits started training Wednesday (Oct.28). The 14 women and 18 men will go through what the mayor describes as intense training for the next 26 weeks. It's the third recruit class to begin this year in an effort to boost manpower.
It comes on the heels of a Lee Zurik investigation, along with our partners at NOLA.com | The Times Picayune, concerning NOPD response times. We found it takes, on average, one hour and 13 minutes to respond to a crime scene.
"If we have an accident on the interstate, we have five guys there for two hours, that's it. Your whole platoon is tied up," PANO President Mike Glasser said.
Many believe the slow response is mainly the result of a depleted police force.
"We made a political decision in 2010 not to hire officers for several years, so the department plummeted from about 1,700 to now 1,100 and some officers," said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
"Way back then, I told people that all of us would have to make sacrifices. I specifically said many times that this was going to hurt, and this is what hurt and sacrifice looks like," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.
Landrieu said it's a decision that he had to make because of the city's dire financial situation when he took office. The decision was reversed two years ago, and since then, there have been seven recruit classes.
"So response times are not anywhere near where we want them to be, but this is not a big surprise," Landrieu said.
The data we analyzed shows that in 2012 when the NOPD's average response time was 13 minutes, the department had 1,327 commissioned officers. As of this month, they're down to 1,137. The number of calls they respond to, though, has also dropped significantly from 473,000 in 2012 to 284,000 last year.
"To me, when somebody says 'help we need an officer,' we need to come. If we can't do that, what are we successful at?" Glasser said.
Glasser said current officers are constantly fighting to answer all calls, but sometimes it seems impossible.
"Obviously when the officers come to work, they know they're never going to catch up with a 50-call backup. They are never going to catch up," Glasser said.
Landrieu said beyond additional recruit classes, everything possible is being done to correct the problem, but no one should expect a quick fix.
"We've got to get better at it, and we are doing everything we can," he said. "We are pulling officers from behind desks to put them on the street, doubling down with the gang unit. We are doing everything we can to make sure we get those response times down, because they are not acceptable."
The mayor said he's proposing another $10.5 million for the NOPD that will go toward body cameras, new cars and new recruit classes.