NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Police Department has lost two and a half times the officers it has been able to recruit so far this year, according to city statistics.
The number of New Orleans police officers has dipped to a new low with 1,139 officers currently on the force, including 27 recruits going through an academy class, according to a city spokesman.
That’s about 70 percent of the 1,600 cops Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said the force needs to adequately protect New Orleans.
Even as the NOPD pushes to hire more recruits, it's losing officers at a rate of one about every 60 hours. So far this year, 73 officers have left the force, said city spokesman Tyler Gamble.
Chief Ronal Serpas has said it's normal to lose about 110 officers every year to attrition, but New Orleans is on track to lose nearly 150. Some retired, some were fired and some left for jobs in other law enforcement agencies, according to police unions.
“The officers are seeing other opportunities elsewhere they're not seeing here,” said Donovan Livaccari of the Fraternal Order of Police.
And the city is a long way from the mayor's goal of hiring 150 new recruits in 2014.
Twenty seven recruits are going through the only academy class so far this year, down from 32 when it started in May. The city says three more have been hired for the next academy class, and it's doing background checks on more than 80 applicants.
“If the city wants to hire more police officers, it needs to make the NOPD a more attractive place for people to work and a more attractive place for current employees to stay,” said Livaccari.
Now, Landrieu is asking that 100 state troopers be permanently assigned to New Orleans.
State police have dedicated 50 troopers to patrol New Orleans through Labor Day, but they say a more permanent plan would hurt their force.
“This police department has historically always been able to manage law enforcement in this city and now we cannot. Basically, the mayor has said, 'We can't do it,'” said Michael Glasser, president of PANO, the Police Association of New Orleans.
Police unions say one of the main reasons cops are leaving the force has to do with changes to the paid detail system, as spelled out in a federal consent decree. They say the number of NOPD's paid details has dropped significantly, and so has the income of officers who relied on them.
“It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” said Glasser.
“There are times when there are one or two cops showing up for roll call, sometimes there's more, or there's even less. People have to be taken off other watches, have to be taken off of other assignments to supplement the platoons,” added Glasser.
Residents like Renard Thomas say they don't feel safe in their own neighborhood and they want to see more police patrols.
“Zero to none is what I'm seeing,” said Thomas.
But those like Tyrone Foucher on Read Boulevard in New Orleans East say, despite the dwindling manpower, they are happy with the police presence in their neighborhood.
“I see their presence, their presence is a lot, anytime you walk out during the day you might see one or two police passing,” said Foucher. “I feel pretty safe.”
Civil service has received nearly 2,000 applications for the NOPD since November, according to Gamble.
As for giving officers an incentive to stay on the force, the NOPD gave promotions and pay raises to a total of 400 officers in 2012 and 2013 combined, according to Gamble. Another 200 officers are under review for a promotion.