There is a feeling and belief permeating our city, and whether you live in the East, Algiers, Lakeview, Gentilly, the 9th Ward, Hollygrove or the Garden District, it is that when you leave your home, you do not feel safe, there is no confidence in city leadership and our streets are a mess.

But even if the streets were paved and flood proof and you are still being carjacked, it would not matter, because we still are not safe and safety is and must be first.

If we want to be a safe city, then one of the things we must have, is an effective professional police department.

This can only happen if we solve the primary problem plaguing the New Orleans Police Department.

The primary problem is beyond recruiting, although we should streamline the hiring process, update eligibility requirements and increase diversity by adding more Asian and Latino officers. In other words, change the process without lowering the standards.

The primary problem is not pay, because the starting salary of a New Orleans police officer is over $40,000, compared to the starting salary of a New York City police officer at $42,000. A number of officers who quit the department stated pay was not the determining cause and overtime was readily available.

The primary problem is not the federal consent decree, although there are disagreers. The federal consent decree is essentially an agreement between the city and the Justice Department, that identified a number of problems, mandated fixes and will only end, once those fixes are completed.

The primary problem with the New Orleans Police Department is its culture.

It is the culture of the family and friends plan, favoritism, which means getting the best and most coveted assignments and transfers, based on “who”you know, rather than “what” you know.The dislike of academy classmates or fellow officers based on drama and personal reasons, and harsh disciplinary decisions for minor infractions based purely on the power to inflict punishment.

This is not new, this culture has existed within the police department for decades.

At the end of the day, this is the the fundamental question we need to answer:

How do you police a city of 300,000 plus tourists and visitors with 900 plus police officers?

We do it with effective management skills to substantially improve recruitment, morale, retention, strategically focus on hot spots, work with the community, think outside the box and more importantly, clean up the culture, to create an effective and professional police department.

Arthur Hunter is a former criminal court judge and New Orleans police officer

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