NEW ORLEANS - Today, the New Orleans City Council is continuing its calls to the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to actively engage in civilization of certain positions within the department and deputization of other City departments such as Public Works, Sanitation, and Safety and Permits.
This Council has repeatedly advocated for increased civilianization of the NOPD. With fewer commissioned officers on the force, there is an even greater need for civilian positions to perform office and certain managerial duties within districts. A non-commissioned force can report to non-violent incidents, such as car accidents and investigating certain property crimes, to help reduce response times and free up commissioned officers for violent offenses.
The New Orleans Civil Service Commission, at the Council’s bequest, have proposed civilian positions and pay they believe appropriate to the department. These positions would free up officers within months, who can then return to active duty and patrols. The Council applauds NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson’s recent announcement to hire 75 civilian positions, with the intent to shift detectives to active patrol. This has been a long-time request of the Council and other stakeholders, and we are pleased to finally see action.
“It is good to see the NOPD beginning to commit to hiring civilian positions within the department and deputizing certain City departments to help with non-violent but high-priority quality of life issues. Residents are demanding more action,” said District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. “The only way to accomplish that is to speed up this process and free up commissioned officers for proactive and engaged duty. This is part of our plan to work with the City on short, medium, and long-term solutions.”
“Boosting the civilian workforce within police departments is becoming a best practice across the country for situations that do not require a commissioned police officer to respond,” said Council President Helena Moreno. “This will then free up commissioned officers to allow for improved deployment to respond to urgent calls for service. We need NOPD and the Admin to act with urgency to ramp up civilianization now.”
“It takes 8-12 months for a recruit to graduate from the academy and become a 1st-year patrolman. We can train support staff to take over similar administrative tasks in 1/10 of that time,” said Council Vice President JP Morrell. “If we are going to reduce response times and end the burnout of 12-hour shifts, there needs to be action now. We suggested the option of civilianization 6 months ago, but it’s no longer a suggestion - it’s a must. Increased civilianization must be included in any policing plan for it to be taken seriously not only by the City Council, but the public.”
“Civilianization is something that I've been committed to long before taking office,” said District B Councilmember Lesli Harris. “I believe that we need more NOPD officers on the street patrolling and keeping our neighborhoods safe. The new civilian positions at NOPD allow civilians to respond to minor car crashes and non-violent minor property crimes, take reports, and follow up. Keeping our community safe is my top priority and I am committed to continuing the work we're doing to address the spike in crime.”
“I welcome this step. Because of NOPD's depleted manpower, this measure will hopefully increase capacity, reduce response times, and increase public safety," said District C Councilmember Freddie King III.
“In the midst of the challenges that our City is experiencing in the wake of criminal activity, it is important that we develop and employ all resources that assist in building additional capacity within our New Orleans Police Department (NOPD),” said District D Councilmember Eugene Green. “Freeing our well-trained, committed, sworn officers to respond to more calls for service, especially in the case of violent crimes, will enhance safety for our residents. Enhanced use of civilians to perform specified tasks will aid in those efforts. Placing civilians in positions where they can work in law enforcement can serve to enhance NOPD recruiting and will free funding for other important needs. I encourage the NOPD to identify and pursue in a robust manner all options for enhanced use of civilian work to assist in the effort to make our city a safer one.”
“Commissioned officers are needed to respond to violent crimes; especially during this critical time in our city. We know that civilianization works,” said District E Councilmember Oliver Thomas. “I support the NOPD in the initiative to implement the civilianization and encourage them to move posthaste.”
In fact, the call for increased civilianization has been made since at least 1991. City Council analyst Jeff Asher researched six assessments of NOPD staffing and planning between 1991 and 2014 for comments on improving civilianization and officer efficiency within the department. In every single assessment, calls for hiring more civilians were made. This advice has rarely – if ever – been followed.
For instance, the below 10 call types are either non-violent crimes or non-criminal incidents which take up large amounts of officer time but rarely (less than 4% of incidents) result in an arrest.