NOPD internal retention survey shows lack of support, stress, flawed disciplinary process contributing to manpower shortage
According to the Police Association of New Orleans, the NOPD has lost at least 40 officers since the start of 2022.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An internal survey from the New Orleans Police Department reveals officers feel a lack of support, overly punitive discipline and restrictive policing policies, and general burnout are factors contributing to attrition on the force.
Already this year, NOPD has lost 40 officers, according to the Police Association of New Orleans.
The survey results, which FOX 8 obtained through a public records request, back up the point PANO and other stake holders have been making: the solution to attrition within NOPD requires structural change.
“We’re already at critical mass from a staffing standpoint,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “You have fewer officers that are asked to do more and more, and when they make a mistake of the heart rather than the head, they feel that they’re being penalized by excessive discipline.”
The online survey was sent to all 1,100 NOPD employees, and 271 responses were received. According to the document, 96% of respondents were commissioned officers.
NOPD said in a statement: “NOPD did conduct an internal survey involving a cross-section of commissioned officers from a variety of ranks and tenures. The top reasons cited by respondents were overly punitive discipline, pay, favoritism, and unrealistic expectations. Many of the concerns expressed by officers are in the process of being addressed. We have also identified some internal misunderstandings related to the disciplinary process and those are being addressed in a proactive manner. But there will always be a need for the same accountability within the department that we ask of the citizens we serve. Mayor Cantrell and her administration have stepped up with an effort to implement a system of retention bonuses to incentivize officers to stay with NOPD.”
When asked what they feel are the biggest factors contributing to attrition, officers said a lack of support, stress, and burnout, and realities not aligning with expectations.
“The perceptions are more negative,” said Peter Scharf, LSU Health Criminologist. “The focus is less than I would have thought on money and benefits, and more on style of supervision, loss of purpose.”
In the open-ended question portion of the survey, respondents were asked what they think is the biggest reason the department is bleeding officers. 191 employees responded to say overly punitive discipline, restrictive policing policies, and overreach by the Public Integrity Bureau (PIB).
101 employees responded pay, 59 said favoritism and 39 said unrealistic expectations and understaffed shifts.
Scharf said he believes the recent national dialogue on policing has changed the public’s perspective of police.
“No successful business has people leaving in droves,” Scharf said. “I think you’re getting part performance metric for the department, and part national trend that will be very difficult to reverse.”
Respondents were also asked the top reasons they believe people stay with NOPD. 94 responded to say officers are staying on the force out of love of city.
But 47 said officers feel stuck or resigned to their positions because of family or time invested, and 78 said they’re either waiting for retirement benefits or are actively looking for other positions.
“They’re leaving for a reason,” Scharf added. “Really look at these survey results, and try and analyze: what is it the city can do, what can [the Superintendent] do, what can the other chiefs do?”
Mayor LaToya Cantrell has put forward a bonus plan that would pay out bonuses to NOPD officers, along with also understaffed EMS, equipment maintenance, and juvenile detention officers.
The Civil Service Commission recently approved the plan, which has gone to the state, along with a request for review by the attorney general.
But, according to the survey results, it’s going to take more than money to fix the problems with NOPD.
“As the numbers go down and [officers] don’t feel valued, and they don’t see reinforcements arriving, and the numbers continue to decline and they’re asked to work more overtime, then that’s going to accelerate the attrition rate,” Goyeneche said. “[That’s] going to put even more stress on the remaining officers that are there.”
The respondents gave three areas the department can build on to improve morale, and stop the bleeding of officers: pay, restrictive policy and PIB reform, and reducing write-ups of officers for minor infractions.
NOPD said the next recruiting class begins on Monday, and has 17 recruits. The current recruiting class in the academy stands at 10.
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