NEW ORLEANS — Police officers who patrol the streets of New Orleans are getting some much-needed help.
Beginning with Sunday’s roll calls, up to 75 additional officers were expected to be back on patrol.
It’s part of a sweeping set of recommendations drawn up by police consultants and former NYPD commanders Fausto Pichardo and Thomas Conforti.
They were hired by the city with a grant from the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation to make suggestions on how to address the many challenges now facing the department.
“We’re making progress in identifying things which we can be doing differently to support our officers and to support our city,” NOPD Supt. Shaun Ferguson said at a news conference last week.
To get more cops on the beat, the NOPD is moving dozens of officers now in administrative, specialty and district investigative units to street duty.
Even ranking officers will be assigned to patrol at least once a week.
“That’s what has to happen for now at least, until we can hire more people, train more people and stop the attrition, so we stop shrinking, this is what’s going to have to happen,” Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) President Capt. Michael Glasser told WWL-TV.
The department has now fallen below 950 commissioned officers. The NOPD was built for 1600.’
“We have to adjust daily in our commitment is to the safety of those officers as well as the safety of our citizens and visitors of New Orleans,” Ferguson said. “We must be successful and creative in reimagining policing, staffing and deployment given the challenges we are facing today.”
The department has also identified 75 new civilian positions to support NOPD officers.
To help bolster recruiting, Ferguson said prior marijuana usage and low credit scores will no longer be held against NOPD applicants.
Sunday, The NOPD officially replaced 11-year Public Integrity Bureau deputy chief Arlinda Westbrook with attorney Keith Sanchez, a former police officer. Westbrook is being sent to City Hall, where she will support implementation of the NOPD consent decree
The PIB was identified by the consultants and PANO as an area where immediate attention was needed.
Last week the city announced other sweeteners such as pay raises, hiring and retention bonuses, rental and student loan assistance. The city also wants to bring back a take-home vehicle program.
“We can’t sit by and watch this continue and do nothing different,” Glasser said. “That’s the part of the thing we’ve been talking about for the last two years now.”
Ferguson said the recommendations are designed to reduce response time and address the backlogs which exist in some of the NOPD’s eight police districts.
“We have some serious challenges that we’re facing as a profession, not necessarily, specifically as a department. We just have to adjust accordingly.”
Again, the new deployment strategy was set to begin on Sunday.