By Jeff Thomas
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. And the conventional wisdom is not necessarily true. The notion that the city of New Orleans needs to hire more police officers is a sterling example of these two maxims. While it is accurate to say that the New Orleans police department has fewer officers than before Katrina, the widely spread misinformation that New Orleans needs to hire more officers has hoodwinked the public.
The most ardent proponent of hiring more officers was Ronal Serpas, who simultaneously erected higher barriers to entry level employment with the department. Serpas is also one of the worst police chiefs in NOPD history. And even our widely well regarded mayor, Mitch Landrieu, has invested a ton of political capital in the more officers notion. Frankly, the poor performance of the NOPD is the biggest failure of the Landrieu administration which offers only PR campaigns and excuses.
There are many methods used to determine the number of police officers a city needs, but the Department of Justice, the International Association of Police Chiefs, and just about every scholarly approach are all in agreement that the best number of officers on patrol in any city is around 2.5 to 3 per 1000 people. That would mean New Orleans only needs a force of around 1050 officers. Currently the ranks in the NOPD have dwindled to just over 1,100 officers. While the number of patrol officers is alarmingly low, the bigger picture is that the department is top heavy. The rule of 60%, another unanimously agreed upon concept, means that New Orleans should have 630 patrol officers and 420 supervisors. The NOPD has 450 patrol officers and 600 supervisors. Around 330 are used to patrol the streets.
The new chief seems to be a hard worker and an effective communicator, but he is a product of the system. Chief Harrison has pulled some non-rank officers from desk duty and pushed them to the streets, but his latest call for retired officers to join the reserves is disingenuous.
The NOPD needs new structure not new officers. The experienced brass need to go on patrol. Rather than spending money recruiting new officers, we should efficiently use the officers we have in the department.
While the NOPD is the biggest drain on the budget of the city of New Orleans, but the problem isn’t the city’s allocation of resources. The problem is we are focused on the trees. . We think that throwing more money at the police department will solve the problem. It won’t. And the mayor recently pledged to sink another 2 million dollars into our top-heavy police department. Nevermind the fact that spending money on the department is the least effective way to stop crime.
New Orleans, LA. locks up more of its citizens than anywhere else in the entire world. Yet the problem of crime persists. Spending money on locking up young black men in New Orleans is a monumental waste of money. IT DOES NOTHING TO STOP CRIME!!!!
Jobs Not Jails
If we want to reduce the crime rate in New Orleans, here is a smarter place to invest $2 million: job training. We need more jobs–specifically for black men– in New Orleans. The persistent focus on locking up black men (80% of the incarcerated men in LA are African American), rather than investing in job training and jobs for black men perpetuates the problem (53% unemployment amongst black men).
Investing in a real jobs creation program – like eliminating blight across the city by training men to transform property into beautiful homes and providing them the option to own the property– would not only reduce crime and blight, but it would increase property taxes collected by the city. Instead the city has invested in a slick recruitment campaign to hire more police officers in a top heavy, inefficient department that admits it can do little to stop crime.
We see videos of muggings and see shootings on parade routes and remember the excuses fed to us by the administration and think more officers would solve the problem.
Hiring more patrol officers is not the answer. We spend enough at NOPD. Better management, more boots on the ground instead of behind a desk will immediately improve the efficiency and quality of the NOPD.
Investment in job training and fast hiring will drastically reduce crime. Jobs where a man can provide good housing and food and education and the pursuit of happiness. Invest 2 million in that and do not hire any more police officers and crime will be dramatically reduced in New Orleans. That racist notion that black men are inherently bad people is a lie that costs too much!