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Civil Service Commission approves administration’s bonus plan for first responders

Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 10:26 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The city’s first responders worked relentlessly through the pandemic, Mardi Gras, and hurricane season to keep the city safe. However, NOPD chief Shaun Ferguson says officers continue to leave in masses.

“This is the fewest officers I’ve seen since I’ve been on the department within 24 years,” said Ferguson.

The city’s administration drummed up a plan to recruit and retain more first responders with bonuses, begging the civil service commission to approve the plan.

“There’s no time to wait and we can’t kick this can anymore,” said Mayor Latoya Cantrell.

The original plan would pay out bonuses to NOPD officers, EMS, equipment maintenance, and juvenile detention officers.

However, civil service commissions worried legally, the city may run into problems particularly with the tiered bonuses for officers based on their years of service.

“I’m all in favor of public safety but we can’t make a legal problem because we’ll have far more consequences than we could ever expect,” said one commissioner.

“What happens if the AG decides to audit this? What if an audit were supposed to happen?” said commissioner Brittany Richardson.

“Great bring it on,” said Cantrell.

The commission initially struck the plan down, but after a series of amendments, and propositions to pass pieces of the proposal, Cantrell fired back at commissioners.

“We will not divide and it’s all or nothing, and it sounds like you’re willing to send a slap in the face to the men and women of the NOPD by wanting to hold or withhold them from this package,” said Cantrell.

“I refute that, I refute that,” said Richardson.

“I think the city was very defensive in regards to the plan,” said PANO spokesperson Eric Hessler.

In the end, the civil service commission passed the plan in full, contingent on a favorable opinion from the attorney general.

“It’s because of the city employees, the city employees that I’m willing to approve it,” said Richardson.

The Police Association of New Orleans, however, says a promise to pay in the future still won’t do enough to keep officers.

“I don’t think PANO will ever apologize for asking more for its police officers, especially when it’s needed and deserved,” said Eric Hessler.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said:

“We are glad that the Civil Service Commission voted to move forward with our pay plan today — in parallel with their own request to the state AG. Any delay in this process is a detriment to public safety, at a critical time. This is only the first step in our ongoing efforts to retain officers, but it is an important one. We thank the Commission for their vote.”

NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson issued the following statement:

We thank the Civil Service Commission for granting our request regarding an amendment to Pay Plan to establish retention pay contingent on a favorable opinion from the Louisiana Attorney General.

In New Orleans and around the country, men and women are leaving law enforcement agencies at a rate that is unsustainable.

The retention incentives enacted today are a first step to keeping officers in their uniforms and will also serve as a recruiting tool for the future.

While we know there is more work to be done, we are committed to providing a positive working environment for the men and women of NOPD. This proposal will help us with that goal.

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