NEW ORLEANS -- With the Orleans Parish municipal elections less than three weeks away, candidates continue to make the push for support.
On Tuesday night Mayoral and City Council hopefuls stopped at meetings held by two police associations. One of the big items addressed was officer morale.
It is a hefty New Years resolution. The city of New Orleans hopes to recruit five New Orleans Police Department classes this year.
If it succeeds it would mean 150 new officers for a force that continues to see a steady hemorrhaging of employees.
"The fact of the matter is we have been unable to accrue enough candidates for the next class at this point," said Police Association of New Orleans President Michael Glasser.
Late last year, the City Council approved $300,000 towards recruitment marketing. However, Glasser said morale is still down and lack of manpower won't be eased -- at least not this year.
"That class will not graduate and finish field training in time for 2014, which means any hiring we do during 2014 will not effect the manpower in 2014," said Glasser.
Since 2010, the NOPD has lost about 300 officers to resignation, retirement or dismissal. Last November, the NOPD graduated a recruit class of a modest 26 officers. A shrinking force and pay remain sticking points for both police associations.
"The detail system is very important within the New Orleans Police Department. The city has so long used that as a crutch to not increase salaries," said Donavan Livaccari with the Fraternal Order of Police.
Livaccari also said officers have left for Jefferson Parish or the Louisiana State Police because of the uncertainty fueled by the NOPD consent decree and a new city-run office responsible for oversight of police details across the city.
"I think that's one of the reasons you're seeing so many people leave. People are just uncertain about maintaining their mortgages and maintaining their children in schools to pay their tuition," said Livaccari.
As the NOPD undergoes a massive overhaul, those men and women on the force are watching closely to see what the future holds in numbers, reform and details.
"We're hoping to get the best compromise out of what is best for the officers, what's best for the citizens of New Orleans and still satisfy the consent decree," said Glasser.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas issued this comment on Tuesday night for this story:
"It's undeniable that the last few years have been hard on this department. Budget constraints, limited hiring and the consent decree was specifically crafted to rectify years of errors embedded within the department. Unfortunately, we inherited this. Our officers do deserve more. Despite the trying times, I sincerely appreciate the officers' continued dedication to assisting and protecting the people of New Orleans."
Since it began its new officer recruitment campaign, the NOPD says 19,000 people have visited its job site and 581 job applications have been submitted.