Ex-NOPD officer explains quitting mid-shift, though Supt. Ferguson calls it ‘disheartening’
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Superintendent Shaun Ferguson chastised journalists Tuesday (July 26) for reporting on the New Orleans Police Department’s worsening manpower problems instead of more “positive” news. But even the chief admitted one of the NOPD’s latest personnel losses was especially disturbing.
Scott Fanning, a third-year officer assigned to the Eighth District policing the French Quarter and Central Business District, walked off the job last Friday in the middle of his night watch shift, notifying a supervisor by text message that he was quitting the force.
“It was disheartening,” Ferguson said at a news conference at NOPD headquarters, ”especially knowing the oath we take.
“He abandoned his post. He just walked out on his brothers and sisters in blue. He abandoned the citizens of New Orleans. He abandoned this department.”
But in an exclusive interview with Fox 8, Fanning explained his decision was one of self-preservation.
“The reason I left is that something just kind of clicked for me, that it was just not worth it,” Fanning said. “That night I quit, there were over 40 calls holding when I logged into my computer, and there were only 35 patrol officers logged in for all eight districts.”
For a city with an estimated population of around 377,000, Fanning saw less than three dozen patrol officers on the streets last Friday night. He decided then that would be his last night on the force.
“It was kind of sad,” admitted Fanning, a 23-year-old Northshore man who applied with the NOPD as soon as he reached the minimum qualifying age of 20 1/2. Fanning completed academy training on his first attempt and was sworn in as part of Recruit Class No. 188 on May 1, 2020.
“It was just weird. I had this weird feeling of how unsafe, how lucky I’d been that nothing bad had happened while I’d been doing it, and that I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
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Fanning said he was far from the only NOPD officer struggling with low morale. He said veteran officers with pension qualification in their sights might want to leave but feel they can’t, while younger officers don’t feel the same restraints. He said traditional police gripes about pay or workload are being eclipsed by safety concerns for officers who realize they have little backup during their shifts.
“I wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “Even when I started three years ago, there would be six or seven officers out with you on your shift. Now, it’s more like two or three. Four was a good day. But some nights, there has been literally one person. ... I had worked a day where it was only me who showed up in the whole district.”
Fox 8 obtained a copy of the report filed by supervisors over Fanning’s mid-shift resignation.
“Officer Scott Fanning texted Sgt. Eugene Cummings that he quit,” the report said. “Sgt. Murray requested Sgt. Cummings have Officer Fanning come to the station to meet with him and determine if something else was going on. Officer Fanning responded by advising he was home already.
“Sgt. Cummings and I called Officer Fanning on the phone and asked if he would come in to complete outstanding reports and to turn in his equipment. Officer Fanning advised he quit again ... (and) he would turn in his equipment on Saturday.”
Fanning said he didn’t realize at the time he couldn’t turn in his equipment and fill out exit paperwork until Monday at headquarters. But he noted he was written up with one last infraction by his supervisor and so technically resigned under investigation.
“I’m considering going to pilot school,” he said. “I’m still young enough to do something different. But there are other people leaving for less pay (at other policing agencies), because at least you’re not feeling like you’re going to die every day. ... I’ve been thinking about it a while, but quitting your job is a hard thing to do.”
As Fox 8 reported Monday night, Fanning is one of at least 107 police officers who have quit or retired from the NOPD in the first seven months of 2022. A recently retired sergeant told Fox 8 he fears for the officers who remain as their numbers continue to dwindle and new academy classes lack sufficient numbers of recruits to keep pace.
“If they say 1,000 officers ... they’re including a ton of different people that aren’t even at the district level,” the former sergeant , who asked not to be identified, told Fox 8 in an exclusive interview. “You start getting to the streets, you’ve got a lot of disgruntled, low-morale, tired emotionally and mentally exhausted police officers.”
The department’s public-facing dashboard lists 971 officers still in the department, not including recruits and reservists. But the actual number of officers out on the streets responding to calls is much lower, according to the ex-sergeant and multiple sources.
Ferguson said Tuesday that the department will begin reassigning some district detectives and some administrative officers from headquarters to uniform roles that make them available for street duty.
“Despite the smaller number of officers on the streets, we remain fully engaged,” Ferguson said. “When the media keeps sending that message (about diminishing manpower), we’re also sending that message to the criminals. We’re doing the best with what we have. We’re going to continue to monitor what is working and what is not.”
As far as former officer Fanning is concerned, city leadership and NOPD management has turned a blind eye to the crisis for too long.
“They should be able to see that they are failing us,” he said. “The individuals aren’t the problem. ... I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner, honestly. Nothing is changing for it to get better.”
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