Council considers measures to boost NOPD recruitment

The New Orleans City Council appears poised to revisit the residency issue in its effort to boost the NOPD ranks. It's just one of several possible way to address the manpower issue.

Council members appear ready to reintroduce an ordinance that would lift residency requirements for New Orleans police officers.

"We're looking at relaxing the domicile requirement and other policies that could be relaxed in regards to sixty hours of college credit or military experience," said Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell.

"As we all know, police department numbers have dwindled in recent years," said Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

The city is currently losing more officers than it's gaining, even with new recruit classes, and the ranks could be at one of the lowest levels in decades.

"Right now we're being told we're at 1,060 in active duty," Cantrell said.

But lifting the residency requirement is not a surefire solution, nor is it guaranteed to receive the support of a council majority.

"If you want to walk down my street with a stick and a gun, you need to be living in my neighborhood," said Councilman James Gray.

During the recent council campaigns, many candidates spoke about seeking new police leadership, but because the chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor, many now say they're going to wait and see.

"We have a consent decree in place and morale seems to be low, and we're doing everything we can to support current leadership unless the mayor says there should be a change," Cantrell said.

Council members also appear poised to possibly raise pay, among other things, to boost the department's numbers.

Police Chief Ronal Serpas says the department is currently in an all out recruitment effort as it tries to put together its first recruit class of the year. More than 1,000 people have applied, but so far the department has assembled only about half the number needed to begin one of two 30-member recruit classes expected this year.

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