Concerns about consent decree, crime prevention districts

Published: Jun. 21, 2013 at 9:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2013 at 9:58 PM CDT
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New Orleans, La. — Some people who pay special taxes to ensure they have extra police patrols are concerned that the NOPD consent decree could end up forcing them to pay more.

If that is the case, they said that could reduce the number of hours NOPD off-duty officers patrol certain areas, or even result in private security companies taking over the patrols.

"If this changes it will be a deal breaker for the whole thing and it will put in jeopardy these crime prevention districts," said Freddy Yoder, president of the Lakeview Crime Prevention District Board.

Yoder and others raise concerns about wording in the consent decree which calls for a city secondary employment coordinating office for NOPD officers who work extra hours when they are off duty.

"We have a system that's been in place since 1998, a system that's worked, and a system that has helped us reduce the crime statistics and crime in Lakeview by over 800 percent," said Yoder.

He said the contract the crime prevention district signed with the city calls for city government to pay officers who patrol Lakeview with funds generated by a special tax assessed on property in the neighborhood, and thus does not constitute a "paid detail" for officers now assigned to Lakeview.

"We write one check back to the city to reimburse them for the time that's spent. The majority of those officers work on an overtime payment schedule, they don't get paid straight time like most details do," stated Yoder.

He believes having an office to oversee police details or other off-duty work could result in higher fees that the people in Lakeview are not ready to pay.

"When the people voted this in, they voted it in and agreed to pay the rate for a police officer at the time-and-half rate and that's what they understood. They also understood that it would only be 1 percent charged by the City of New Orleans back for handling those payrolls," continued Yoder.

Jim Olsen, chairman of the Mid-City Security District expressed similar concerns. A group representing police officers also weighed in on the issue.

"These crime prevention districts are going to pay more for less police services," said Raymond Burkart III, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police.

FOP has gone on record opposing the creation of an office of secondary employment. "It's a lose-lose situation for the officers who will be making less money. And this is how they supplement their incomes. Police officers put kids through school and have to pay tuition, too," Burkart said in an interview with FOX 8 News.

Yoder added that they have been talking with City Hall about their concerns and he is hopeful about the outcome. "I think the city and the council understand our position and are sympathetic," said Yoder.

Friday afternoon, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the consent decree does not specifically address special taxing districts, so they will seek guidance from the federal consent decree monitor once that person is chosen, as well as the federal courts on this matter.