Police consultant’s plan ‘to save the city’ calls for massive reassignment of NOPD officers to patrol duty

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 5:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A draft set of recommendations by police consultant Fausto Pichardo calls for the immediate redeployment of 212 New Orleans police officers from current assignments to patrol duty, a drastic move described as necessary “to save the city.”

“Action must be taken NOW if there is ever a chance to save the city and bring the reputation of being a city where tourists can come to party and celebrate and not become victims,” Pichardo wrote in the nine-page summary of his recommendations to the NOPD obtained by Fox 8.

“The residents of New Orleans ... also need and deserve to have a police force that can make them feel safe and be there for them every time they call 911.”

Pichardo, who formerly headed the massive patrol division of the New York Police Department, was hired Aug. 31 by Mayor LaToya Cantrell for at least a six-month term as a consultant working to revamp Superintendent Shaun Ferguson’s police department. Pichardo and another retired NYPD assistant chief Thomas Conforti made 50 recommendations in their report.

Some of them -- such as relieving civilian deputy superintendent Arlinda Westbrook of command over the department’s Public Integrity Bureau -- already have been implemented among a series of recruitment and retention reforms announced by Cantrell and Ferguson last Thursday.

But an NOPD spokesman said Tuesday that other recommendations and assertions made in Pichardo’s draft are not necessarily being imposed or are considered accurate.

“The 10-day scan is just that -- a quick assessment by a different set of eyes coming from a different perspective,” the spokesman said. “As such, the document is more of a draft than policy changes etched in stone. The recommendations in the scan still need to be vetted for feasibility.”

The spokesman said the draft’s reference to 212 commissioned officers who could be reassigned to patrol work “is much higher than what is actually being considered. ... As the superintendent mentioned last week, that number is more in the range of 75-100.”

Whatever the final number turns out to be, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the New Orleans police force not currently patrolling city streets will resume those entry-level duties soon. An NOPD source told Fox 8 the reassignments could begin as soon as Sept. 23.

“We can’t provide public safety, or our own safety with those numbers,” said Capt. Mike Glasser, President of the Police Association of New Orleans. “Had we done it earlier, it would have been better. But we didn’t. Are we going to like it? No, probably not. But it really needs to be done.”

“We have to consider whether or not we can respond to calls for service for people who call the police, whether we can get there in a reasonable time and give them the attention they deserve,” Glasser continued. “Everybody’s going to have to chip in, including command staff level rank. I’m going to have to go back on the street as a field supervisor, and I should. That’s what we need to do.”

Under Pichardo’s proposed plan, a number of officers currently working administrative, general assignment or district detective roles would soon find themselves back in patrol cars. So, too, would 40 officers currently assigned to the NOPD’s Special Operations Division, which includes motorcycle officers, horse-mounted officers and K-9 officers.

Court liaison officers, public records officers, cold case detectives and as many as 10 Public Integrity Bureau detectives currently assigned to investigate complaints against police also would be reassigned to patrol work under Pichardo’s proposed plan.

“At its peak, the New Orleans Police Department had a headcount of 1143 commissioned officers,” Pichardo wrote. “With a workforce that size, the opportunity existed for NOPD to create specialized positions/units within the department without hampering its ability to provide adequate 911 response. ... That is no longer the case.

“The simple expectations that the police will arrive when you call them is not a current reality in New Orleans.”

Pichardo’s draft summary also said the increased patrol deployment was essential to keep safe another group besides residents and tourists -- the police officers themselves. Earlier this year, third-year NOPD Officer Scott Fanning told Fox 8 that he felt unsafe and decided to quit mid-shift on a Friday night after starting his shift and seeing that only 35 patrol officers were on duty across the entire city.

“Officers on patrol need and deserve the simple assurance that, just like the residents they serve, that back-up will also come to them when they call for it,” Pichardo wrote. “With attrition and recruitment also at critical levels, the department must move from the specialization model of days past to an ‘everyone must pitch in’ model. ... No one is exempt, regardless of the rank or assignment.”

Glasser said some of Pichardo’s recommendations were welcomed by rank-and-file officers. But he admitted the extensive reassignments to patrol duty will upset some and could lead to more veterans leaving the force.

“What’s not going to be popular -- among some people -- is the reallocation of people from administrative and investigative positions back into patrol. It’s a temporary condition ... and the people that are going to be required to do that are probably not going to be happy doing it. But, we have to consider whether or not we can respond to calls for service from people who call for the police, that we can get there in a reasonable time.”

Among Pichardo’s other recommendations:

  • Begin the process of providing “take-home” vehicles to patrol officers, perhaps an incentive-based plan under which districts with the lowest 911 response times or the fewest department vehicle accidents would be the first to receive new vehicles
  • Present more cases -- especially gun and narcotics cases -- to the local U.S. Attorney’s Office to be prosecuted federally, an indication of dissatisfaction with the prosecutorial appetite or acumen of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ office
  • That detectives assigned to investigate internal affairs be rotated out of the Public Integrity Bureau to new assignments every two years
  • That all disciplinary hearings for officers against whom a PIB complaint was sustained be conducted within 60 days
  • That department recruiters “review the folders of recently disqualified candidates, to determine if the vetting process is too stringent”
  • That each district captain be issued a $1200 debit card funded by the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation to enable the purchase of “breakfast, lunch, BBQ, etc.” for the officers under their command
  • An allocation of “Captain’s Days,” vacation days that district captains could grant to officers under their command for exceptional performance, dedication or accomplishments

Criminologist Peter Scharf said the plan, while not finalized, lays out a good blueprint for the direction NOPD will need to go. But he hopes to see more details, including a time frame for implementation.

“Is it a medium term report? What’s the end outcome?” Scharf asked. “I don’t think that is really clear.”

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