Only 3 hires for 50 civilian positions at NOPD since September
At a consent decree hearing on Tuesday, federal monitors said the NOPD is backsliding when it comes to court-ordered reforms around staffing
By Missy Wilkinson
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
NEW ORLEANS — Amid a furor last September over the plummeting ranks at the New Orleans Police Department, former Superintendent Shaun Ferguson agreed to adopt a decades-long recommendation to augment the force with 50 new civilian workers. The jobs were posted on the city's job portal in just days.
Nearly six months later, only three people have been hired, according to the New Orleans Civil Service Commission.
Meanwhile, the number of commissioned officers keeps slipping. As of this week, the NOPD had 944 officers, including recruits, which amounts to 30 fewer cops than when Ferguson first announced the civilian hiring push.
[EARLIER: Interim NOPD chief aims to bring in civilian hires, outlines plan for Mardi Gras]
At a consent decree hearing on Tuesday, federal monitors said the NOPD is backsliding when it comes to court-ordered reforms around staffing.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said lead federal monitor Jonathan Aronie. "(The NOPD) needs more creative ways to solve their current problems with respect to recruitment and retention."
Meanwhile, the city's homicide rate is tracking higher than last year, which placed New Orleans among the country's most murderous cities. There had been 45 murders as of Wednesday, compared to 42 during the same period in 2022.
A frustrated applicant
One candidate who applied for a civilian job in October said this week that he's been through seven in-person interviews with NOPD supervisors, but still hasn't been hired.
He has years of law enforcement investigative experience and has submitted everything the agency has asked for, including his birth certificate, driver's license, college transcripts, fingerprints, credit reports, a drug screen and a voice stress analysis test—sometimes multiple times because the materials are misplaced. He has passed every level of background check.
"The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing," said the applicant, who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to jeopardize his potential employment. "I've dealt with so many different divisions and departments and bureaus that if I didn't know how the system worked there, I would say it's all crazy."
While the agency said at the outset it would seek up to 75 civilian workers to pick up certain duties, it has only ever advertised for 50.
[PREVIOUSLY: NOPD reportedly has 160 'qualified' applicants for 50 civilian positions, but none have been hired]
The NOPD created positions for 25 intake specialists, who will do administrative work, such as taking police reports and conducting investigations of the non-emergency crimes. Of 144 qualified applicants, three people have been hired for the jobs that start at $39,893. Another 19 applicants are undergoing background investigations, according to Civil Service Director Amy Trepagnier.
The agency also wants to hire 25 investigative specialists, who will do policing and administrative work across five specializations: the Field Operations Bureau, the Public Integrity Bureau, the Special Victims Unit, Alternative Police Response and Applicant Investigation. As of this week, 61 qualified applicants were competing for those roles, which start at $49,889. None had been hired, though one applicant had moved to the background investigation phase of the process, Trepagnier said.
NOPD officials did not respond to specific questions about the pace of hiring. A spokesperson did say the application process includes multiple variables that can extend the process. Supervisors must interview applicants in addition to their regular duties, for example, and applicants must undergo fingerprinting and drug screens.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell's office also did not respond to questions about the hiring process other than to say that her comments were in alignment with that of NOPD.
"I'm frustrated the process is taking so long," said the applicant who applied in October. "I've put other opportunities on the back burner because I really want to do this."
An alarming staffing trend
Hiring is not just dragging with the new civilian positions.
Of the 2,590 applications last year for candidates who wanted to be cops, only 25 new officers were hired—about 1%, according to an analysis by City Council consultant Jeff Asher.
Superintendent Michelle Woodfork called that figure alarming at the council's Criminal Justice Committee meeting last month, before offering some clarification.
"Online you have a bunch of people filling out applications who may not even be interested in the job," she said. "I can apply through the Indeed app, but to take the test is something different, and that's what those numbers mean."
As for the job candidate still waiting to hear on the civilian position, he said he feels a passion for public service and would like nothing more than to assist NOPD with their investigations. He recently inquired about the status of his application.
He received an email back inviting him to apply.
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