NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans City Council has thrown out the rule requiring all city police officers, fire fighters and EMS personnel to live in Orleans Parish.
Recruitment and retention within the New Orleans Police Department is at an all-time low, but now city officials hope to turn things around by eliminating at least one major deterrent, the domicile rule.
Thursday, the city council voted 6 to 1, to lift the residency requirement so that New Orleans police officers, firefighters and EMS workers can live where ever they want.
"There will always be somebody who doesn't want to so this is a good, easy fix to allow those that don't want to, for whatever reason, to still be a member of our public safety," said Lt. Col. Jerry Sneed, the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
The Police Association of New Orleans says while this is a step in the right direction, more still needs to be done to bring in new hires, as well as retain the officers they already have.
"The detail policy has affected their earning abilities and while their earning capabilities have gone down, the cost of living continues to increase in new Orleans," said Police Association of New Orleans Attorney Eric Hessler.
Hessler says, right now, the NOPD offers very few incentives in comparison to other law enforcement agencies in the area.
"The police officers we have are committed to protecting and serving, but that doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't protect and serve somewhere else if they can improve the quality of life for themselves and their families," said Hessler.
District E City Council member James Grey agrees, saying if these other factors were improved upon, it would attract more officers to the NOPD.
It's one reason why Grey says he voted against the measure.
"I think we need to pay them more, I think we need to do everything we can to make their lives better for what they do for the citizens of our city, except let them live somewhere else and spend our tax dollars somewhere else," said Grey.
City officials say they are already looking at these other so-called barriers and say they are working to solve those problems.
"Anything is on the table to get the right officers we need for NOPD and all of our public safety, we need our public safety people to come here," said Sneed.
The Police Association of New Orleans says the department has lost 45 veterans this year alone.
City officials say in January the NOPD started with 113 accepted applicants, but only 49 showed up and of those, only 19 ultimately made the grade and were accepted into the academy.