NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The New Orleans police Department enters the new year with a new crime-fighting plan in the works and a hiring goal of 150 officers, but the head of the police association says that's not enough, citing rising crime and a labor-intensive federal consent decree that governs the department.
For a long time, the NOPD had a stated goal of 1,700 officers, but after a year of what's been described as intensive recruiting, the NOPD is still more than 500 officers short.
"Right now we're staffed at 1158," said Police Chief Michael Harrison.
The department made some strides last year but failed to reach a hiring goal of 150 officers.
"We hired 114 people, but we lost 109," Harrison said.
The head of the police association said the department needs a lot of help.
"For the last 7 years, we don't have a successful crime-fighting strategy, we have a department that's 500 short," said PANO President Michael Glasser.
Some also say the decree is making officers slow to react.
"This has to be the most scrutinized police department on the face of the earth, so concerns about risk averse police officers is real," said criminologist Peter Sharf with LSU Health.
"Because of the oversight officers are reluctant to initiate contact," Glasser said.
Harrison admits the consent decree is labor intensive, but he says the right size for the department is about 200 fewer than PANO calls for.
"We think it's more like 1,600 officers. We put that before citizens, but they said no to it," Harrison said.
In 2017, the police department is budgeted for 1,206 officers and has a goal of hiring 150 more. But attrition continues to be a major problem for this department. Once again last year, the NOPD lost almost as many officers as it hired, and PANO said the department needs to look at new ways to hold onto experienced officers.
"There has to be a carrot. We can't just say you've plateaued out," said Glasser.
Glasser has gone to civil service with a new plan to retain good cops who don't want to go into management.
"What I was offering was a career path for detectives and tactical officers," Glasser said.
A new crime-fighting plan is now in the works.
"It will address deterrence, prohibit guns in the Quarter, and manpower and the approach to it," said Harrison.
That plan should be released in a matter of days in hopes of reversing disturbing trends in a department still plagued by manpower issues.
Sharf said the right size for the department is about 1,500 officers. He also said the NOPD should better utilize technology to get the most out of available manpower. Harrison said that issue will be addressed in the new crime-fighting plan.