NEW ORLEANS, LA — Fewer New Orleans Police Department officers are leaving the force in 2017 than at the same time last year, and Superintendent Michael Harrison said Monday (Sept. 18) it’s the result of recent and upcoming changes. Chief among them are a proposed pay raise and reorganization of the career advancement path for officers.
So far this year, 61 officers have left the NOPD – compared with about 80 at the same time in 2016 and in previous years, the chief told the City Council during a hearing on the city’s proposed 2018 budget. The NOPD’s work force currently stands at 1,162, including 54 recruits who are in training.
The NOPD expects to add another 150 recruits in 2018 to offset the officers expected to leave the force. Typically, that number has been between 90 and 100, resulting in a net gain of between 50 to 60 officers next year, Harrison said.
The new police pay structure, which ultimately depends on City Council approval, includes a 10 percent bump in salary for entry-level officers, who currently make $44,949 a year. It also calls for more money to go to detectives who advance within the department. The increase will not require additional taxes, the Landrieu administration has said.
The career path changes include a “detective career track” to allow officers who want to continue leading investigations make more money without having to take a management position. The classifications for patrol officers would change to allow for advancement and pay raises at each level.
These changes are aimed at stemming the departure of NOPD members with five to 20 years of experience, said Eric Melancon, deputy chief of staff. Exit interviews reveal that experienced officers are leaving New Orleans for jobs with other police departments that provided specialized assignments and more pay. The loss is particularly acute at the sergeant and lieutenant ranks, he said.
In addition to seeing a lower rate of attrition, there is increased interest in joining the NOPD, Harrison said. Through August, there have been 5,500 applicants for its police academy, compared with 4,700 for all of 2016. The increase is critical because only 2.5 percent of applicants meet NOPD qualifications to become recruits — a figure comparable to other police departments around the country, according to the chief.
The $160 million that Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to spend on the NOPD next year would pay for 1,206 officers and includes $9.2 million for the pay increase. Police officials said they will go before the Civil Service Commission next week to discuss a change in the NOPD’s career paths that includes more opportunities for officers who want to advance in the patrol division or as detectives without assuming management roles.
Without the pay raise package, the operational budget for NOPD increases from $149 million this year to $151 million in 2018.
The 2018 budget also includes civilian positions throughout NOPD, including additions in the sex crimes unit. Civilians already work in the department’s Alternative Police Response (APR) Unit, which includes officers who handle non-violent, property crimes. Harrison said citizens should be able to start filing their reports to the APR Unit online starting in November.
The administration also provided $1.3 million in the 2018 budget for the city to begin payments on a settlement with the Fraternal Order of Police over overtime pay.