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Survey: New Orleans cops list favoritism, other issues as cause of dissatisfaction with PD

The survey found 86% of NOPD cops are unhappy with the PD and 79% with the promotional process, citing cronyism and favoritism as reasons

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NOPD officers who responded to a survey are dissatisfied with the department and its promotional process, according to the city council.

Photo/YouTube via WDSU News

By Matt Sledge
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police officers who responded to a labor group’s survey are deeply dissatisfied with the department and its promotional process, according to a presentation at the City Council on Wednesday.

Fully 86% of New Orleans Police Department officers who responded said they were unhappy with the NOPD and 79% with its process for getting ahead, often citing cronyism and favoritism as reasons for their dissatisfaction, according to the Fraternal Order of Police survey conducted in partnership with the City Council.

The survey comes at a critical time for the NOPD as Mayor LaToya Cantrell decides who will replace retiring Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. The City Council’s data analyst said that the survey shows that the next chief must be ready to tackle deep problems with morale.

“This is something the next chief is going to have to grapple with,” said Jeff Asher of the firm AH Datalytics. “You can’t ignore this, you can’t look away, you can’t say this is fake data.”

Questions of favoritism

The survey was distributed in late November through the FOP, a group which says it represents about 90% of the force, but non-members of the FOP were also allowed to respond. The survey drew responses from 268 officers, which is equivalent to 28% of the current force.

While the responses were anonymous, officers were asked for their rank and years of service. Those attributes tracked closely with the NOPD as a whole. Asher noted that the sentiment of current officers also mirrors the answers given by departing officers in exit interviews.

Many of the survey’s free-form responses drew remarks about perceptions of cronyism and favoritism in the promotion and transfer process. Council President Helena Moreno said those remarks underscored the council’s call this week for a transparent police chief selection process culminating in full council confirmation.

“Officers are really begging for fairness and for transparency, which I guess, brings us to also the big issue that we’re facing now,” said Moreno. “This selection process is really begging for a clear, open and fair process when it comes to picking a chief.”

Cantrell has promised to seek input about her next chief. But she hasn’t promised to follow the council confirmation process, which goes into effect Jan. 1.

“My initial step towards finding a replacement for Chief Ferguson includes using this time to assess all options, have important conversations and create meaningful dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders who are equally invested in keeping our City safe,” Cantrell said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

[DOWNLOAD: Digital Edition: What cops want in 2022]

Desired benefits

One of the main reasons that Moreno’s office teamed up with the FOP was to discover what would keep NOPD officers on the force. In light of mass defections, Cantrell recently secured huge recruiting and retention bonuses.

In responses to the survey, officers identified other preferred benefits. The top four desires were 2% longevity pay, annual step increases, sick pay paid out one-for-one at retirement and equipment upgrades.

Faced with high gun crime rates, soaring response time rates and sagging public confidence, Cantrell this summer conducted a listening tour of district roll calls and brought in consultants to help turn around the NOPD.

Ferguson has already overseen changes like switching cops to 12-hour shifts and redeploying some cops from desk and detective duty to answering 911 calls. Those moves were intended to cut down response times and ease the burden on patrol cops.

The city has also taken other steps aimed at improving morale, such as relaxing personal appearance rules, shaking up the leadership at the Public Integrity Bureau and promising cops massive bonuses for the next three years.

City officials have acknowledged that when it comes to retention, in the words of Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño, “what we’re doing and how we’re doing it isn’t working.”

But they’ve argued that the September redeployment has taken some of the burden off of front-line officers, and they predict that the bonus package will gradually alleviate further pressure.

Ferguson has blamed criticism from the City Council for some of the morale problems, saying in August that “it’s our elected officials who continue to beat the drum on negativity.”

The City Council approved the $32.5 million recruiting and retention package as part of the Dec. 1 budget, which also included millions for new police cruisers.

“The administration is exploring all possibilities related to offering recruitment and retention incentives for NOPD officers,” John Lawson, a Mayor’s Office spokesperson, said in a statement. “The administration also remains focused on recruitment incentives that will allow the City to be competitive with other jurisdictions to recruit new officers while also focusing on supporting and maintaining our existing troops.”

[READ: What really impacts morale in policing?]

Caseloads ‘outrageous’

At-large Council member JP Morrell said Wednesday that the survey shows the importance of reliable pay raises tied to years on the force. The pay raises the council passed continue only for the next three years.

Donovan Livaccari, a spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police, told the council that some of the department’s morale problems can only be solved by increasing the size of its workforce.

“I do think that manpower is at the heart of some of these problems. The sex crimes unit, for example, has caseloads that are outrageous,” he said. “I don’t think you can expect anybody to work with those kinds of caseloads.”

Boosting the size of the NOPD remains a far-off goal for the city, which estimates that at best it could take until 2025 to get back to the size the force boasted as recently as 2021.


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