NOPD district's 'proactive patrol' strategy raises questions

Published: Aug. 9, 2012 at 2:32 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2012 at 2:37 AM CDT
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Officers in NOPD's 4th District are being told, if they want to work a better shift, all they have to do is more proactive police work.

Some say it's much-needed motivation.  Others question what it could lead to in a district fighting to bring its crime rate down.

Year to date in 2012, overall major crime is up nine percent in Algiers, compared to the same time frame last year.  The community has demanded better crimefighting strategies.

"The problem comes in when you have a system that doesn't make a distinction between quantity and quality," says Eric Hessler, attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans.

Hessler says he's never seen a strategy like the one just announced by 4th District Commander Brian Weiss.

In an email to his supervisors, Weiss says, the top producers on each platoon will get their selection on which platoon they want, beginning next month.  He says the bottom producers of proactive work will be moved to another shift to see if this improves their proactive work.

"A proactive stop is when a police officer is on patrol, and he sees an individual or group engage in activity that gives him suspicion that they may have committed a crime, or are about to commit a crime," says Hessler.

He says proactive patrols are necessary.  However, he warns, "It could be a bad thing when a department over-emphasizes such things, and a police officer feels pressure to stop somebody just to stop somebody."

Asked to comment on the awarding of favorable shifts based on proactive patrols, NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden released this statement:

This community deserves police officers who are proactive by serving warrants, enforcing traffic laws or problem solving in our neighborhoods. We strongly encourage this type of proactivity. As in any business, there is merit in performance.

"Commander Weiss is trying to find a way to motivate his officers," says Raymond Burkart III, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police.  "Right now it's a tough time and there are no raises in the future, so you motivate them by at least trying to alleviate their schedules."

Burkart says he's never heard of a scheduling reward like this either, but doesn't see a problem with it.   "It doesn't mean write more tickets and make more stops," he says.  "Production means get out and do the work and if you're not motivated, here's some motivation."

The strategy goes into effect on September 2 in a district where only about one-fifth of all crimes this year have been solved.

The federal consent decree does talk about proactive patrols, but doesn't define what they are.  Both PANO and FOP say that's just one example of why they need to be involved in the process and have filed motions to intervene, so there are no questions about what's expected of officers as the reforms are implemented.