New Orleans, LA – The City of New Orleans is considering implementing an $80 million incentive package to help recruit and retain officers at the city’s dramatically understaffed police department.
The New Orleans Police Department’s (NOPD) worsening manpower shortage has reached crisis level, WVUE reported in July.
“If they say 1,000 officers … they’re including a ton of different people that aren’t even at the district level,” a recently-retired NOPD sergeant told WVUE at the time. “If you were to take some of those numbers and knock them down and start trying to deduct administrative and stuff like that, you’re looking well below a thousand.”
“You start getting to the streets, you’ve got a lot of disgruntled, low-morale, tired emotionally and mentally exhausted police officers,” he added.
The retired sergeant and multiple other law enforcement sources said that as few as 430 officers were actually out on the streets and responding to calls as of July, WVUE reported.
“Sometimes, you might get two, three people working the street in a whole district,” he said. “You’ve got police officers having to make the decision: ‘There’s only two or three of us, where’s my backup?’”
As the number of NOPD officers has continued to dwindle, crime rates have soared, the Associated Press reported.
Homicides are up 46 percent since last year and 142 percent since 2019.
With fewer officers available to handle calls, the average response time for high-priority 911 calls has topped 30 minutes, according to WWL.
New Orleans officials announced a three-year, $80 million plan on Thursday aimed at retaining current police officers as well as recruiting new members to the city’s force, the Associated Press reported.
Under the proposal, new recruits would receive a $20,000 bonus after one year of post-academy service, following by another $10,000 bonus after three years, according to WWL.
Officers would receive $5,000 pay increases every five years for up to 20 years of service, plus five percent guaranteed raises in both 2024 and 2025.
The city would also cover all health insurance premiums for officers and their families through at least 2025, WWL reported.
Portions of the proposal would need to be approved by the City Council or the Civil Service Commission.
In addition to the pay increases and fully-funded health insurance coverage, a total of 600 new vehicles would be purchased under the terms of the plan in order to revive the NOPD’s take-home car policy for officers, the Associated Press reported.
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said a short-term plan is underway to pull personnel from specialized units to help out on the streets so officers have more backup.
The $80 million plan would primarily be funded by federal pandemic recovery money initially, but would need to be covered by the city’s budget in the future, the Associated Press reported.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that addressing the police shortage is the city’s most pressing need at the moment, according to The Times-Picayune.
“Public safety remains our top priority,” Cantrell said. “This is the best use of one-time money, quite frankly.”