Cantrell, Ferguson announce sweeping changes at NOPD

The changes are meant to address the effects from department’s ongoing manpower shortage, as well as bolster recruitment and retention efforts.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, flanked by city councilmembers and assorted leadership, announced one of the largest changes in how New Orleans is policed in decades, including an $80 million dollar package aimed at recruitment and retention as well as immediate changes in the department.

Those changes will include the reassignment of commissioned, non-patrol personnel, like administrators and detectives, to patrol the streets in an effort to cut down on call times and support patrol officers.

“Administrative positions, every position that you can think of in a commissioned capacity,” said Ferguson when asked which positions would be out on the streets. “The goal is giving everyone a bite at the apple. Homicide investigators will be tasked at least one day a month to go out on patrol and support where they are needed at that time. Definitely not to take away from their primary responsibilities.”

Ferguson said the amount of time each of the personnel will spend patrolling the streets will vary by position and need, with some moved indefinitely.

“In some capacities, we’re actually going to be redeploying or shifting some of our personnel to patrol, temporarily, till we get through all of this,” he added.

Fausto Pichardo, the former NYPD Chief of Patrol who has since joined NOPD in a consulting capacity, was also introduced to the public for the first time on Thursday.

Pichardo said he is in New Orleans to support Ferguson in implementing the changes in the department.

“Whatever tasks he has delineated for me to take a look at, it is exactly what I will do in depth,” Pichardo said. “[I’ll] report those findings to him, and ultimately the Superintendent will have a say in exactly what he wants to do.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Cantrell hires former NYPD deputy chief to consult on revamp of NOPD operations

Perhaps the most time was spent discussing a sweeping set of proposals, yet to be approved by New Orleans City Council and/or the Civil Service Commission, aimed at recruiting new officers and retaining the ones who remain at NOPD.

The package, which will cost the city an estimated $80 million over three years (mostly from federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan) contains several elements:

  1. $30,000 bonuses paid out to both recruits and transfers
    1. $20,000 paid after completing first year of service, $10,000 paid after completing third year
  2. Increased starting pay for recruits and transfers
    1. 5% increase over current starting pay in 2023
  3. Two additional guaranteed pay raises for recruits and transfers
    1. 5% increases in 2024 and 2025
  4. Three guaranteed 5% pay raises for current officers
    1. 2023, 2024, 2025
  5. 5% cost of living payment in 2022 for current officers
  6. Fully funded health insurance
    1. 100% of employee and dependent/spousal premiums paid by the City through 2025, eliminating each officer’s payroll deduction for health insurance

The package also includes education incentives for officers and recruits, both for those with or those seeking to pursue post-secondary education, as well as housing support for recruits attending the academy and relocation assistance. Also, the administration announced recruits would soon be able to take the entry test virtually.

“We are able to stay fiscally secure as we roll out these initiatives, and in no way will we be in any kind of concern, I feel, financially for the years moving forward,” said Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño. “[We’ve made] a lot of structural changes over the course of time, and the implementation of our ARP funds.”

MORE: ‘My focus is on those officers’: Mayor Cantrell outlines steps to help retain police officers

Cantrell acknowledged the deficit of officers the NOPD is facing, and the need to tackle the problem head on.

“The last several classes have been our lowest, our last several. We believe that with the package that we’re presenting on today, that we will see our numbers increase, much like we have been able to graduate classes since I’ve been mayor,” she said.

Another major shake up came in the form of a high-level reassignment: Arlinda Westbrook, the former head of the Public Integrity Bureau (PIB), was moved to the CAO’s office.

Keith Sanchez, the former legal director at NOPD’s Training Academy, will take her place.

“I have reassigned Ms. Westbrook. She will be in the CAO’s office primarily focusing on the consent decree, because we want to make sure we’re moving steadily in the right direction to ensure compliance,” Cantrell said.

“The CAO’s office, which this makes total sense, has been even more engaged relative to the consent decree,” Cantrell continued. “Having Ms. Westbrook in the CAO’s office makes great sense, and it’s better alignment and keeps our focus heavily compliance of the consent decree.”

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