NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Police Department has a massive manpower shortage, but that shortage has led to a surplus in its budget.
Thursday, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to put that extra money towards the firefighters' pension fund.
The NOPD's budget was based on the expectation it would add officers, not lose them. Now, the department is left with a $2 million surplus.
'That funding was the equivalent of buying food for a family of five with two people in the house.'
Thursday, the council voted unanimously to put the $2 million towards the $7 million mandatory judgment the city must pay its firefighters this year.
However, that did not sit well with some.
'We are certainly sympathetic to the firefighters and we support the firefighters and their pension rights, but we have to stop the hemorrhaging of police officers for the NOPD,' said Fraternal Order of Police attorney Claude Schlesinger.
'We are critically short of NOPD officers and every neighborhood in the city is pleading for more officers,' said concerned resident Bob Sims. 'While you can't create new officers overnight, you can certainly let Chief Serpas use this money for overtime.'
Council members say the budget included generous overtime pay. Even so, with officers' overtime, there was money left over.
But those against the move are not buying it.
'That may be the intent, but the reality of life is that we don't have unlimited overtime,' says Sims.
Still, the FOP argued that overtime is not going to change the fact that there are not enough officers on the force.
'We would like to see enough of a cushion in the NOPD budget to begin the implementation of a pay raise for police,' says Schlesinger. 'We think that is ultimately the answer to stop the hemorrhage of police officers in the city.'
While city officials said the money was best spent on the city's other obligations, council members did say the decision would in no way take money away from the department's training and recruitment efforts.