Manpower crunch and consent decree red tape put responding officers in danger, PANO says
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) is sounding an alarm over a manpower crunch that it says is endangering officers.
Viral videos from over the weekend outraged the public and prompted NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson to promise a crackdown on people performing dangerous and illegal stunt driving maneuvers on city streets.
PANO questions whether the department has enough manpower to respond appropriately.
“It was evident they were armed and wanted to do dangerous things around a police car. That shows they have no fear of consequences,” said Michael Glasser, head of the Police Association of New Orleans.
A New Orleans police officer ventured into a mob on St. Claude Avenue, prompting a response that may have put his life in danger.
“Not only are we in jeopardy, but the public is in jeopardy. If we can’t protect ourselves, how do we protect them?” said Glasser.
Glasser says on any given shift there may be as few as three or four officers responding to calls in a district. On Sunday, Ferguson said there were four different illegal “pop-up” car show scenes across the city.
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The NOPD has released images of persons of interest related to illegal car stunts that attracted a mass gathering, shutting down traffic at the intersection of St. Claude and St. Roch Avenues on Sunday, June 5, in hopes of identifying them.
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Not including recruits and reserve officers, NOPD has around 989 officers.
Glasser partially blames red tape surrounding the consent decree for a police attrition problem that has one officer leaving the force every other day on average.
What is the Consent Decree?
- In May 2010, at the invitation of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the U.S. Dept. of Justice began investigating an alleged pattern of civil rights violations and other misconduct by the NOPD.
- In March 2011, the DOJ issued a written report alleging unconstitutional conduct by the NOPD and expressing concerns about various NOPD policies and procedures.
- In July 2012, the city, NOPD, and the DOJ entered the nation’s most expansive consent decree, which regulates use of force, violence response, community policing, training, transparency, compliance, and audits.
“[The consent decree] takes time and energy away from the actual crime itself,” said Glasser.
A study conducted by the website Axios found that there were major increases in crime in several cities including Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Cleveland in the two years after consent decrees were put in place.
LSU Health Criminologist Peter Scharf says while violent crime may have gone up, murders actually went down.
“I don’t see consent decrees as one of the top five factors. Attrition, manpower, the change in demographics of the city, and the drug trade all outweigh the consent decree,” said Scharf.
The NOPD has gotten a lot of positive attention for reforms under the consent decree, but Glasser says no department wants to emulate the manpower shortage and crime increases currently being experienced here.
“It’s labor-intensive and we have no labor,” said Glasser.
City Council President Helena Moreno proposed a six-point plan to try and attract more officers. It includes asking the federal judge overseeing the consent decree to ease special training restrictions that some say are hindering experienced officers from moving into NOPD.
“If you were a seasoned officer with state police and you want to work with the New Orleans Police Department you have to go through the entire NOPD academy,” said Moreno.
PANO’s president would like to see that happen but is skeptical.
“Can it be eased? Of course, but that’s up to the federal judge,” said Glasser.
In a statement, the NOPD says it is working with federal monitors to approve a new curriculum for lateral transfers that would include a considerably shorter 10-week academy to provide training on consent decree protocols.
The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation went before the council committee Tuesday afternoon asking for more resources to recruit officers. The foundation says it has actively worked to drastically reduce the background investigation, hiring, and testing processes to try and boost police ranks.
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