Five NOPD recruits fired over 'behavioral' red flags

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by Scott Satchfield and Michael Perlstein / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on June 11, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 11 at 8:52 PM

NEW ORLEANS - When behavioral red flags arose for five NOPD recruits during field training this week, police chief Ronal Serpas decided to let them go.
 
"When the information was brought to me, the point was made well enough that I feel, you know, we need to move on, they need to move on,” Serpas said. “We wish them the very best, but for the standards of our service, we weren't able to get them quite there."
 
Serpas isn't offering many details about the dismissals, but he says the decision fits into his overall vision for the department.
 
Serpas fired the recruits after they failed a screening by a behavioral review panel.
 
"This is an opportunity to look to the future -- how we're gonna continue to build the organization,” he said. “We wanna find the best and the brightest and be able to train them up to capacity to be able to serve."
 
Over the last few years, the NOPD has struggled to get back to its pre-Katrina numbers in terms of manpower -- adding more significance to each recruiting class.
 
But with so much scrutiny being placed on the department in the wake of recent police scandals, Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission says it's apparent -- philosophical changes may be in the works.
 
"This is something that is acutely sensitive right now, in light of everything that we're seeing play out right now," he said.
 
Word of the dismissals surfaced on the same day five current or former NOPD officers were indicted in connection with the case of a man whose body was found burned in Algiers in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
 
Five former officers have pleaded guilty in connection with the Danziger Bridge shooting case.
 
Still, Goyeneche says the multiple dismissals during training are unusual.
 
He believes Serpas is making an effort to root out any potential problems, as the department deals with various hits to its public image.
 
"If they allow some problems to slip by on the front end, the exposure for the city and the impact on the community's perception of the criminal justice system and the police department is much dearer and much greater when there's a scandal," Goyeneche said.
 
It's a reason Serpas says decisions about potential behavioral issues are too critical to take risks.
 
"I'm never gonna flip a coin,” he said. “If I have to decide what's in the best interest of the community or the department, the community wins every time."
 
Former NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley let three other members of the same recruiting class go earlier this year.

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