NEW ORLEANS (NewsNation) — The New Orleans Police Department is reimagining policing and is getting creative with processes like hiring civilians and organizing patrol shifts to help with the force’s staffing issues.
The number of New Orleans police officers has dwindled to well under 1,000 people, down from more than 1,300 a few years ago.
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said the average response time is currently 11 minutes, but with the help of civilians, the department can reduce that time.
“This is a tough fight that we must stay the course on,” Ferguson said at a press conference Thursday. “What we are going to be doing in the future is hiring civilians and police intake specialists. We are looking to hire 25 civilians so we can have around-the-clock staffing, telephones to take those reports, and around-the-clock staffing to monitor these online reports.”
In addition to hiring 50 to 75 additional civilians, those officers on detective status will be going back to work on the street on a rotational basis through a program called “DART” — District Assist Response Team.
“Starting this Sunday, as many as 75 more officers will be on patrol. That will consist of officers assigned to administrative districts and district investigative units,” Ferguson added. “Their mission is to attack the backlog of the very district they are serving.”
NOPD is also reducing requirements to work for the department regarding marijuana. Marijuana use before getting hired will not be considered and low credit scores will no longer have an impact.
“We have to adjust daily, and our commitment is to the safety of those officers as well as the safety of citizens and visitors of New Orleans,” said Ferguson.
Meanwhile, pay raises for all officers and a $30,000 incentive payment for new hires are among the policies announced in New Orleans as city officials are seeking to reverse a steady loss of police officers.
It also calls for coverage of all health care costs for police officers and the revival of a take-home car policy for officers. The leaders said the three-year plan has an estimated total cost of nearly $80 million.
Officials said the million program is aimed at recruiting 200 officers and could be expanded.
This week, the NOPD will graduate 18 new officers, and there are currently 12 recruits.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WGNO contributed to this report.