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NOPD says lack of officers not the problem; others disagree

“Our children are being shot. Our neighbors are being shot. More manpower most certainly will make a difference,” said Findley, a recent victim of crime at her home.

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans businesswoman’s petition to the city calling for the National Guard to help the city’s under-staffed police force has gathered more than 1,100 signatures. And now the police department’s dismissive response to the effort is generating its own fallout. 

In an exclusive WWL-TV story about the petition Friday, the NOPD issued a statement reading, in part, “We could have 500 more officers and the national guard, but if the charges aren't brought to court, it's all in vain.”

The NOPD statement continues, “The problem does not stem from a lack of NOPD officers making arrests. There has been a proven inability of the system to hold individuals accountable for their actions.” 

Rhonda Findley, the organizer of the petition, called the city’s response “very disheartening.”

“Our children are being shot. Our neighbors are being shot. More manpower most certainly will make a difference,” said Findley, a recent victim of crime at her Bywater home and her French Quarter boutique.

Despite the NOPD's jab at the courts and the DA's office, both hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police said officers on the street would welcome any help they can get. 

“We have been in a manpower crisis in the New Orleans Police Department for years now. And it's not gotten any better. In fact recently, it's gotten a lot worse,” said FOP attorney Donovan Livaccari. 

Just a few months ago, the NOPD was sending a very different message touting the success of having about two dozen Louisiana state troopers in town for what they called “Operation Golden Eagle.” 

In an NOPD press release from September, the department issued statistics showing 75 adult arrests and 15 juvenile arrests as a result of the joint crime-fighting effort. In the release, the department stated, “Operation Golden Eagle has been a success in the reduction of violent crime.” 

Livaccari said that kind of crime-fighting is now impossible given the depleted department. 

“We've already lost all of the pro-active elements of the police department, if not all of them,” he said. 

The NOPD is suffering from a 50-year low in troop strength at fewer than 1,100 officers, down from a long-standing goal of 1,600. In 2021, the department lost more than 140 cops while hiring only 41. 

“We don't have enough NOPD officers to ensure the quality of life and public safety in New Orleans today,” Findley said. 

Findley's proposal is a longshot. National Guard troops are usually only reserved for emergencies such as natural disasters. 

“It is an extreme proposition, but if not that, then what?” Findley said.

Despite dismissing the petition calling for help, just a few months ago, the NOPD announced this joint recruitment effort with the National Guard.

In that announcement, the department stated, “NOPD’s Recruitment Office is consistent with its goals to partner with the community in filling its ranks. The two professions consistently intertwine with awareness that many NOPD officers are either current or former members of the Louisiana National Guard.

WWL-TV reached out to District Attorney Jason Williams, but the station has not  received a response.

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