Another report is critical of NOPD’s response time
9th June 2014 · 0 Comments
Coming on the heels of two reports that questioned the NOPD’s use of its available manpower and said the embattled department has “a long way to go” to fulfill the requirements of a federally mandated consent decree, a new report by the Metropolitan Crime Commission said that fewer cops on the streets of New Orleans has led to fewer arrests and longer response times.
WWL-TV reported Wednesday that in 2013 the number of NOPD officers dropped below 1,200 officers for the first time in decades.
“It would be one thing if we were just down a few dozen officers, but we’re down about 400 officers,” Rafael Goyeneche, a former law enforcement officer and president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said. “A 36-year low in staffing for the police department.”
According to the watchdog group’s annual “Criminal Justice System Accountability Report,” the NOPD made 5,734 felony arrests last year That figure represents a 13 percent drop in the number of arrests since 2010.
The report asserts that the reduction in arrests is not a result of fewer reported crimes because the number reported crimes actually increased by 15 percent over the same period of time.
“People are feeling the real police manpower crisis when they pick the phone and they dial 911 and they have wait a half hour or an hour for a response,” Goyeneche told WWL-TV. “If there’s that type of lag, it diminishes the time for an arrest.”
New Orleans anti-crime activist Nadra Enzi told WWL-TV Wednesday that people across the city don’t feel safe.
“At day’s end, not enough cops are staying and not enough would-be cops are applying to this department under current leadership,” Enzi said.
According to the report, NOPD officers are having greater success when they do make a felony arrest. Their arrest-to-conviction rate has increased from 20 percent to 45 percent over the past five years. That’s compared to the national rate of 54 percent.
“What’s happened is now that there is a relationship between police and prosecutors that didn’t exist,” said Goyeneche.
“Now, they’re working together,” Enzi told WWL. “I think that’s something we can all be happy about.”
“For the past four years, the NOPD has adopted policies to use summonses when appropriate in lieu of arrests,” NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a statement released Wednesday. “This practice holds people accountable for their actions and allows officers to spend more time patrolling our neighborhoods. Overall, arrests continue to go down and convictions are getting better. Our officers use their best discretion to put the right people in jail and will continue to focus their attention on the most dangerous and violent offenders.”
In a report released on May 28, New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said the NOPD is top-heavy and does not have enough cops on the street. He recommended moving cops working in office settings to street patrol and utilizing civilians to perform various office tasks currently assigned to officers and refuted the notion that the NOPD is suffering from a manpower shortage.
“Many New Orleanians accept as an article of faith the assertion that the New Orleans Police Department is understaffed,” Quatrevaux wrote in the report. “Yet the steady drumbeat for a larger police force and claims of a police force in ‘crisis’ continue in the absence of verifiable evidence documenting NOPD’s personnel and operational needs.”
“We should be exploring all possible options before we increase the troop strength of NOPD by 300 officers,” Quatrevaux said in the report.
Goyeneche disagreed with Quatrevaux’s assessment of the NOPD manpower issue. “There’s a shortage of officers in every component of the Police Department,” Goyeneche told The New Orleans Advocate in an interview late last month “We’ve paused for five years and are behind the hiring curve. We need to forge ahead in that cause.”
Last week, Goyeneche said in the Metropolitan Crime Commission report that the NOPD wastes precious time on misdemeanor arrests.
He said hours spent on minor, non-violent offenses could be spent patrolling the streets of New Orleans.
The report said that on an average day in 2013, cops arrested 10 people for minor, non-violent offenses and that each arrest could take an officer off the streets for anywhere from one to three hours. That challenging situation is exacerbated, Goyeneche said, by the NOPD’s manpower shortage.
“Every day that goes by, there are fewer and fewer police officers, which makes their time all the more valuable,” Goyeneche told Nola.com. “So, at a time when police staffing is at a 36-year low and cakes fir service are taking longer for officers to respond to than anyone would want, why would a police department allow a practice that would squander their most precious resource , which is manpower, on a petty arrest?”
“Most experts agree that it is self-defeating to orient a police department around responding to calls for service, because a department that focuses exclusively on response at the expense of proactive engagement will continually see higher and higher volumes of citizen requests for service,” NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a statement released Wednesday..
“Only by attempting to address these complaints before they are voiced can a department effectively serve its community.”
“Simply put, responding to calls for service means we are already late,” Serpas added.
“The officer most likely to solve the rape of your child or your wife is gonna be a detective — not a call for (a) service officer,: Serpas told WWL-TV. “And this report ignores everything but calls for service, and that’s why I disagree with it.”
“I am not willing to abandon community policing because it works,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement last week. “I’m not willing to cut the homicide unit or the gang unit or the domestic violence unit because they make our city safer. The people of this city have demanded more and better-trained officers, better response times, and community-oriented policing.”
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, the federal NOPD consent-decree monitor selected by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan in August 2013, issued a 126-page report on May 29 that said progress in reforming the police department has been slow and that the NOPD has a long way to go to become compliant with constitutional policing standards.
“NOPD continues to make progress toward full implement ion of the Consent Decree,” Sheppard Mullin said in the report. “But the NOPD still has a long way to go to come into full, effective and sustained compliance.”
Among the struggles listed in the Sheppard Mullin report are the department’s failure thus far to develop an effective program for training new recruits and current officers; its failure to establish an effective and efficient Consent Decree Implementation Unit; and its failure to develop new policies and procedures that are both effective on the street and comply with the 492-point consent decree which outlines a wide swath of necessary changes that include recruiting, use of force, interrogations, searches, community engagement, off-duty paid details and internal affairs investigations.
W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of the local cable-access show “OurStory,” said CUC is looking closely at the Sheppard Mullin report. “Thus far we see serious problems with SM’s approach and execution during the monitoring process,” he said. “We are getting the second quarterly report when in the contractual agreement timeline the people of New Orleans are due the third quarterly report. Additionally, there seems to be a sense of collaboration with the Landrieu Administration as opposed to independent procedures with their manner of reporting. For example; under item VI, Summery of Monitoring Activities, page 16, third paragraph the report states; ‘[W[e rely on and contribute the expertise our team possesses”. Then on page 17, under B, Meeting with NOPD, first paragraph, it talks about a method of monitoring: ‘We observed training classes to understand how training was conducted and whether it effectively communicated NOPD policies and techniques to the officers.’ This clearly identifies a methodology — one of several methods identified without a clear indication of their findings.
“This causes CUC grave concern, especially when on page 15 second paragraph, the report says ‘This being said, based on our work and observations thus far, we believe the NOPD remains committed to the promises it made to it citizens of New Orleans (and its officers) in the Consent Decree.’ The people of New Orleans did not commit to pay for assumptions and innuendos but rather hard facts and documented measures. As far as the Consent Decree goes, Sheppard Mullin is not giving the people of New Orleans any bang for all of the bucks they are enjoying.”
Asked Friday who should accept the blame for the misuse and mismanagement of police officers described in the OIG and Metropolitan Crime Commission reports, Johnson said, “The responsibility for a disgusting report from the OIG and MCC can be equally distributed between the chief of police and the mayor of New Orleans.
“The proof is plainly demonstrated through the lack of police protection and the length of time it takes to receive service from a 911 call,” Johnson added. “What becomes interesting is that the (Sheppard Mullin) quarterly report does not mention anything about the problems the OIG has pointed out. New Orleans has three reports OIG, MCC and Sheppard Mullin) done in the same time period and the OIG and MCC reports are as different from the Sheppard Mullin report as night and day. Maybe the NOPD needs to be placed under the jurisdiction of the OIG— maybe Sheppard Mullin needs to be replaced.”
In other NOPD-related news, it was reported last week that three members of the 32-member class of NOPD recruits that began receiving training have dropped out of the program during the first week of training. The City of New Orleans has budgeted funds to add 150 new officers to the police department but the training period for police recruits lasts nine months which means the new class of 29 recruits won’t graduate from the police academy until February 2015.
The news isn’t looking good for New Orleans, which witnessed the shooting of 19 people, four of whom died, over the Memorial Day Weekend.
Referring to the challenge of ending the NOPD’s “blue hemorrhaging” by boosting its ranks through recruitment while slowing down its attrition rate, New Orleans businessman Ramessu Merriamen Ana told The Louisiana Weekly, “Who knows how many more officers will leave the department between now and the time these recruits graduate from the police academy? Unless the NOPD finds a way to stop the ‘bleeding,’ it will be unable to do anything about the rising bloodshed on the streets of New Orleans. It’ll be too little, too late.”
This article originally published in the June 9, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.