NEW ORLEANS, La - Political ads are in heavy rotation with roughly two weeks left before voters cast votes in municipal elections on February 1.
The latest spot from mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris focuses on crime; specifically the manpower and the person needed to fight crime in the city. It starts by listing the numbers.
"When Mitch Landrieu took office there were over 1,500 officers, today there are less than 1,200," the voice-over explains.
The New Orleans Police Department is actively trying to recruit 150 new officers, something many in city government and law enforcement consider challenging. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas declined to comment directly about the ad, but spoke about one hurdle to recruitment he says is rarely mentioned.
"And that is what were the decisions of previous councils and the prior administration in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 that essentially bankrupted this city that when we took office in 2010 we had no money to hire anybody," said Serpas.
The police chief himself is being targeted in the Bagneris ad. The voice-over continues saying "Michael Bagneris will add 400 officers. He'll hire a new superintendent." A replacement for Chief Serpas has also been brought up during recent debates of candidates for city council.
"I never have a comment to political debates, that's all that is, that's political dialogue," said Serpas.
It may be political dialogue, but political analyst Clancy DuBos says it's also smart political strategy. DuBos says Chief Serpas' popularity is low when compared to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's high poll numbers. Given the small window of time from when Bagneris qualified for the race to the actual February 1 election, DuBos says focusing on crime and Serpas puts incumbent Mitch Landrieu in an "interesting" position.
"The police chief is not that popular and he's Landrieu's police chief. So by going after the police chief and possibly putting Landrieu in a position of having to defend Serpas that may be the one way strategically to take some votes, especially in the black community. That's the name of the game for Michael Bagneris right now. He's got less than two weeks to really make his case," said Dubos.
Regarding the Bagneris' pledge to recruit 400 new officers, DuBos says that seems unrealistic.
"Certainly on the campaign trail you can promise the moon, but in terms of delivering? It would be extremely difficult to have a net increase of 400 officers," said DuBos.
While the popularity of Chief Serpas may be debated and even with the challenges in recruiting new officers, DuBos says the current administration has had success. Last year, the city had a 20 percent decrease in the murder rate. The 155 murders in 2013 was the lowest count of murders in more than a decade.
"NOPD has serious problems. There's a Federal consent decree in place to remedy those problems, but there's no denying that the murder rate went down 20 percent last year," said DuBos.