New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson called it “disheartening” that a police officer assigned to patrol the French Quarter last weekend notified his supervisor by text message that he was quitting the force and walked off the job.
Superintendent Ferguson said the officer, who had been a member of the police force for three years, was assigned to the Eight District and was supposed to be patrolling the French Quarter and the Central Business District (CBD) on July 22 when he quit, WVUE reported.
“It was disheartening, especially knowing the oath we take,” New Orleans’ top cop told reporters during a press conference at police headquarters on July 26.
“He abandoned his post,” he continued. “He just walked out on his brothers and sisters in blue. He abandoned the citizens of New Orleans. He abandoned this department.”
But the 23-year-old former officer that Superintendent Ferguson was talking told WVUE that he disagreed with that assessment.
Now-former New Orleans Police Officer Scott Fanning hit back in an interview and said his decision to leave was one of self-preservation.
“The reason I left is that something just kind of clicked for me, that it was just not worth it,” Fanning explained. “That night I quit, there were over 40 calls holding when I logged into my computer, and there were only 35 patrol officers logged in for all eight districts.”
The former officer said that the night he quit, there were less than three dozen patrol officers working the streets for a city with an estimated population of about 377,000, WVUE reported.
Fanning said the staffing shortage was the last straw and he made the decision that it would be his last night on the job.
“It was kind of sad,” he told WVUE.
The 23 year old from Northshore said he applied to the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as soon as he hit the minimum age to qualify.
He said he completed academy training on his first attempt, graduated with NOPD Recruit Class No. 188 on May 1, 2020, and was proudly sworn on to the police force, WVUE reported.
“It was just weird,” Fanning explained. “I had this weird feeling of how unsafe, how lucky I’d been that nothing bad had happened while I’d been doing it, and that I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
He told WVUE that the morale problem was widespread in the department and that he felt like younger officers didn’t feel tied to their pensions and locked into their jobs.
Fanning said traditional officer complaints of long hours and low pay have been eclipsed by safety issues caused by a lack of backup and a general shortage of officers.
“I wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “Even when I started three years ago, there would be six or seven officers out with you on your shift. Now, it’s more like two or three. Four was a good day.”
“But some nights, there has been literally one person,” the now-former officer recalled. “I had worked a day where it was only me who showed up in the whole district.”
Fanning said that he didn’t realize he couldn’t turn in his gear on Friday night and complete exit paperwork after he resigned, so he got written up once again and technically resigned under investigation on Monday morning at police headquarters, WVUE reported.
“Officer Scott Fanning texted Sgt. Eugene Cummings that he quit,” the shift report documenting his resignation read. “Sgt. Murray requested Sgt. Cummings have Officer Fanning come to the station to meet with him and determine if something else was going on. Officer Fanning responded by advising he was home already.”
“Sgt. Cummings and I called Officer Fanning on the phone and asked if he would come in to complete outstanding reports and to turn in his equipment. Officer Fanning advised he quit again … (and) he would turn in his equipment on Saturday,” according to the report.
Fanning was one of at least 107 New Orleans police officers who have quit or retired from the department so far this year, WVUE reported.
A recently-retired sergeant said that the numbers of officers that the department was claiming to have on the streets was inflated.
“If they say 1,000 officers … they’re including a ton of different people that aren’t even at the district level,” he told WVUE. “You start getting to the streets, you’ve got a lot of disgruntled, low-morale, tired emotionally and mentally exhausted police officers.”
Superintendent Ferguson hit back at claims the department was dangerously understaffed.
He accused news media outlets of trying to scare the public with policing shortages rather than reporting on the department’s successes, WVUE reported.
The superintendent promised that he would start re-assigning detectives and administrative officers to patrol duties to help fill the gap.
“Despite the smaller number of officers on the streets, we remain fully engaged,” Superintendent Ferguson claimed. “When the media keeps sending that message (about diminishing manpower), we’re also sending that message to the criminals. We’re doing the best with what we have. We’re going to continue to monitor what is working and what is not.”
Fanning said that the city has waited too long to tackle the problem, WVUE reported.
“They should be able to see that they are failing us,” he said. “The individuals aren’t the problem. … I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner, honestly. Nothing is changing for it to get better.”