NEW ORLEANS -- They have mockingly referred to themselves as 'trailer trash' and their outpost in an old FEMA trailer as 'the captain's graveyard,' but six NOPD captains and one major may see some relief after the Civil Service Commission ruled Friday that they have been improperly assigned to duties that don't match their rank.
The top-ranking officers are officially assigned as integrity control officers, but given their low-level assignments investigating non-criminal internal matters, they have always viewed their posts as punishment designed to get them to resign.
But instead of quitting, they have made an issue of their treatment, even mocking their plight with a card over the holidays showing the veteran officers posing in front of their trailer next to a portable toilet with the caption: 'Over 250 years of experience wishes you Happy Holidays from Da Trailer.'
More significantly, the officers Maj. Raymond Burkart and captains Bruce Adams, Michael Glasser, Simon Hargrove, Heather Kouts, Bruce Little and Frederick Morton filed a civil service complaint in 2012, arguing that their lowly positions could be handled at the level of lieutenant or below, violating city policy.
The commission unanimously agreed, issuing a 16-page ruling Friday that orders the NOPD 'to either reduce the complaintants in rank or assign them duties consistent with their permanent civil service classifications.'
This is the second major civil service victory for the embattled officers, most of whom previously held top positions in the department, including district commander, head of the narcotics, Public Integrity Bureau commander and even deputy chief. The first favorable ruling, issued last year, forced the city to pay the officers the same 10 percent pay bonus as officers assigned to PIB.
Attorney Eric Hessler, representing the officers on behalf of the Police Association of New Orleans, said the ruling is vindication for veteran NOPD leaders who have suffered several years of humiliation as outcasts simply because they're out of favor with the current administration.
'This shows what happens when the city tries to manufacture positions without regard to civil service rules,' Hessler said. 'It backfired big time. There was no real motive except to try to run these captains off the job. But to their credit, these officers fought back and they won because they're right.'
'The real losers,' Hessler added, 'are city taxpayers. They've been paying these officers for the experience and leadership, only to have those talents squandered by the administration.'
The city has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the civil service decision.