NOPD chief responds to consent decree monitor report critical of hiring practices

NOPD chief responds to consent decree monitor report critical of hiring practices
Updated: Jan. 19, 2017 at 5:41 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The federal monitor overseeing reforms within the New Orleans Police Department is out with a report calling into question one out of three recent hires.

The 28-page document says the NOPD hired 59 applicants with hiring "risk indicators" ranging from prior drug use to arrests. In it's push to boost manpower, the NOPD launched four recruit classes last year.

"Mass hires lead to disaster. You have a panic about hiring and there's pressure to skip steps," said criminologist Peter Scharf with LSU Health Sciences.

The report shows that about one-third of the 137 active academy recruit files had documented risk indicators, including self-reported repetitive drug use going back more than two years. It also showed that some had been terminated by prior employers, had multiple incidents involving police reports and had prior NOPD arrests.

"None of us are hiring angels or saints or people in heaven. We are hiring human beings," said New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison.

Jonathan Wisbey, the previous recruiting director, has just resigned, and Harrison said the hiring effort will suffer while they search for a replacement.

Harrison said he took swift action when problems were brought to him, and he said he's now working with the consent decree monitor to try and address those problems on the front end.

The report goes on to say that, "The monitoring team has reached no conclusion regarding whether any given recruit is or is not qualified to be an NOPD officer."

"Could it be improved? Absolutely. Has it been? Absolutely," said Harrison.

Harrison said he's under constant pressure to hire more cops.

"Everywhere I go, people ask where are police and why aren't you hiring more?" said Harrison.

"Under those pressures, there's an inclination to skip steps," said Scharf.

Harrison said none of the risk indicators uncovered so far require him to terminate new officers.

"There are discussions, and we feel confident that everyone who was hired, we feel comfortable about their hiring," he said.

The chief said he wouldn't have a police department if he didn't hire people who had made mistakes.

The head of the police association issued a statement this afternoon expressing concerns about the role of higher ups in the hiring process. Michael Glasser said he's relieved that the process is being revamped, and candidates are being re-evaluated.

The FOX 8 investigative team recently put in a public records requests asking for all job applications and resumes of recruits the last four years, but the city refused to hand them over.

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