Retired NOPD sergeant says department’s worsening manpower shortage is a crisis

‘You beat your head against that wall and it’s going to fall on you. That’s what you’re looking at in New Orleans.’
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A recently retired sergeant says the New Orleans Police Department is overstating the number of officers actually available to patrol the city’s streets, and that the cops who remain have reached a crisis point.

“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 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 NOPD is hemorrhaging officers, with more than 100 already deciding to turn in their badges less than seven full months into the year. According to multiple law enforcement sources, around 107 officers have quit NOPD since January. 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.

“If you were to take some of those numbers and knock them down and start trying to deduct administrative and stuff like that, you’re looking well below a thousand,” the former sergeant, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fox 8.

The former sergeant, who spent nearly 13 years with NOPD before retiring this year, said around 430 officers are policing the city and responding to calls. The estimate has been supported by multiple law enforcement sources.

“Sometimes, you might get two, three people working the street in a whole district,” the retiree said. “You’ve got police officers having to make the decision: ‘There’s only two or three of us, where’s my backup?’”

The sergeant blames a culture of overly punitive internal policies and restrictive policing that have forced officers toward an attitude of self-preservation.

“It’s hard enough to survive, just getting through whatever chewing out you’re going to go through, whatever disciplinary investigation you’re going to go through, and hope that you’re going to get to walk away from this job with a good career,” he said. “You’ll get written up for anything.”

In March, Fox 8 reported an internal survey conducted by NOPD showed that when officers were asked what they feel are the biggest factors contributing to attrition, they said a lack of support, stress, burnout and realities not aligning with expectations. Pay was not listed among the highest complaints.

This sergeant, who spent time as both a patrol officer and as an academy instructor, said the reasons for the current manpower crisis are many, but money is not one of them.

“They keep talking about retention, but they’re not doing anything about it,” he said. “And throwing money at it? Money’s not going to solve the problem. You’ve got to acknowledge that these are human beings that are sacrificing, quite possibly, their very lives, and make it seem worth it to them.”

He said officers remaining on the force are overworked, stressed and exhausted. They generally leave roll calls facing an immediate stack of backlogged calls awaiting their response.

“They’re suffering through it now,” he said. “If you’ve got three, maybe four officers working an entire district, you’re not going to clear all the calls. And those calls are going to start adding up.

“They want to do the job. There are a lot of them that take great pride in what they do. But it’s murder trying to get through.”

He said when he was on the force, he cared for the people who answered to him. Now, he’s afraid for them and their safety.

“I still love and care about everybody that I served with, and I fear for them. Because they’re standing up against a crumbling wall,” he said. “In this situation, you beat your head against that wall, it’s going to fall on you. That’s what you’re looking at in New Orleans.”

In March, the NOPD responded to criticisms of its policies, saying in part: “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.”

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