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Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department's most highly awaited recruit class in years is already shrinking.

Launched amid pomp and circumstance exactly one week ago, the 32 police recruits are already down to 29 survivors after three quick departures, according to the city.

The three recruits left for personal reasons, according to an official city statement.

One of the recruits left on the very first day, shortly after the media was invited to witness the class being welcomed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

Another was not able to handle the physical demands of the training academy, according to multiple sources.

The departures come at a sensitive time for the NOPD as it tries to bolster a force that stands at a modern-era low of fewer than 1,150 officers. A recent report by the Office of Inspector General found that troops are so thin that the department takes an hour to respond to some emergency calls.

Academy Class 170 is part of a push by Mayor Landrieu to hire 150 officers this year, although the new recruits won't be patrolling the streets until 2015 following their nine-month training program.

The city, with help from the non-profit New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, is in the middle of a major recruiting effort to fulfill Landrieu's goal, encouraging people to apply through a new website designed to bolster applications.

The city also is proposing a new recruiting incentive by offering existing officers a $500 referral bonus for every applicant who qualifies for the academy. That new recruiting tool is expected to be discussed Wednesday at the City Council's budget committee meeting.

In an email, a spokesman for the mayor said it's not unusal to lose a few recruits after the training class begins.

The full-court recruiting push will continue on Saturday when the city and NOPD host a special recruitment fair at Langston Hughes Academy on Trafalgar Street. That event is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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