NOPD Superintendent Announces Major Restructuring Effort To Increase Police Presence In City’s Neighborhoods
NEW ORLEANS—Today, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison unveiled a major restructuring of the department that aims to increase police presence and reduce violent crime in neighborhoods across the city. Based on a staffing analysis commissioned in 2015, the new deployment strategy creates a surge in neighborhood patrols by adding nearly 100 officers to respond to citizen calls for service. The restructuring effort builds on progress Chief Harrison has already made to smartly deploy available resources and put as many officers on the street as possible.
“My number one priority is to make our neighborhoods safe,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said. “That’s why we’ve worked so hard to increase our visibility on the streets. We’ve put more boots on the ground by taking officers from behind desks and putting them back on patrol. With unprecedented overtime funding, we assigned officers to crime hot spots to prevent crime before it happens and quickly arrest suspects when it does happen. And for the first time in several years, we are hiring more officers than we are losing through attrition. Combined, these efforts led to a decrease in overall crime last year.”
At the same time, Chief Harrison has worked to create innovative solutions to free up officers’ time in the field, including:
• Adding more staff in the Alternative Police Response (APR) Unit to handle non-violent property crime reports via telephone;
• Building an on-line reporting system to report non-violent property crimes to police; and
• Updating the City’s False Alarm Ordinance to cut time wasted responding to false alarms.
Chief Harrison said, “This new deployment strategy is the next step forward to putting the right number of officers on the street. It creates a surge of officers that will provide more police visibility and give us the resources to quickly match an officer to a person in need. And as we continue to grow, every neighborhood will see more police present.”
In 2015, Chief Harrison commissioned a review of department staffing and resources to determine the most effective and efficient structuring of the NOPD. Based on the staffing analysis portion of the study, which included interviews and focus groups with officers, Berkshire Advisors determined that the department needed to add 94 officers to patrol.
Achieving the goal of putting 94 more officers on the street to respond to citizen calls for service will require a major restructuring of the department.
The restructuring will include:
• Consolidating staff positions and reassigning district duties. This move shifts non-essential duties, including administrative and mechanical tasks, away from commissioned officers.
• Reassigning staff from non-district assignments, including Headquarters and Motorcycle Unit. This move puts officers who are specially trained in traffic enforcement in the districts.
• Redesigning the Quality of Life Program. As the NOPD moves toward becoming a community policing focused department, every officer will be trained to provide these services to citizens. In addition to putting more boots on the ground, the new deployment strategy builds more free time into officers’ schedules for community policing activities.
In addition to analyzing the study performed by Berkshire Advisors, the restructuring was determined based on discussions and collaboration with NOPD officers of every rank, area law enforcement agencies, and members of the community.
Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said, "I'm proud to support Chief Harrison as he continues to institute reforms within the New Orleans Police Department to ensure more efficient and effective police operations. These additional patrol officers will contribute to increased officer visibility and officer safety for NOPD as well as the State Troopers who continue to work in the city."
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said, “I fully support Chief Harrison’s effort to restructure the NOPD and focus resources on responding to citizen calls for service. Following Hurricane Katrina, the JPSO made similar changes to combat staffing challenges and streamline our department and we saw great success in improved response times.”
Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said, “The redeployment of 94 veteran officers into the patrol division improves the NOPD’s ability to better protect and serve the citizens of this community.”
Business Council of New Orleans Chairman David A. Kerstein said, “The NOPD’s strategic plan addressing internal, organizational change and external deployment strategies, designed to result in more officers on the street, is timely and most welcome. It is a clear sign of strong and engaged leadership by Chief Harrison and is a reaffirmation of the Landrieu administration’s commitment to improving quality of life, enhancing public safety, and reducing crime.”
New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation CEO Melanie Talia said, “Bringing back veteran officers and the redeployment of experienced officers will improve the capacity of the New Orleans Police Department to quickly and effectively address crime, as well as increase the ability of the officers to address community concerns.”
Council President Jason Roger Williams said, “I applaud the Chief’s efforts to reduce police response time and increase community policing. Behind reducing crime itself, reducing police response time is the most important issue for the NOPD. Getting police officers from behind desks and out of offices is something I have been pushing for since taking office. Chief Harrison has worked diligently to make this happen, and has put together an excellent plan. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that this plan aims to reduce police response times, and brings a renewed focus to community policing. Putting officers into communities will hopefully reduce crime, but also foster positive relationship between the community and the police.”
Councilmember-at-Large Stacy Head said, “I applaud Chief Harrison’s continued work to make sure that the most fundamental police function—responding to calls for service—is a priority. A fully-staffed platoon force available to respond to calls for service and engage in proactive patrolling is vital as we work together to improve public safety.”
District A Councilmember Susan Guidry said, “For the past several years, this Council has advocated for a reassessment of the deployment strategy at the NOPD. Particularly, Councilmember Head and I called for commissioned officers doing civilian jobs to be returned to the streets. I am pleased that Chief Harrison and the expert agree that the priority for the deployment of sworn officers should be responding to citizen calls for service. With this reorganizational plan, we take another step toward ensuring that our citizens will get the level of service they rightfully expect.”
District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said, “This redeployment is essential to reduce response time to citizen’s calls for service. I pushed hard to bring in a consultant to review deployment and operations because changes have been needed for a long time to put more officers on the street. We must use what we have to improve public safety and public confidence in the NOPD.”
District D Councilmember Jared Brossett said, "I am fully supportive of this move by Chief Harrison. This targeted force redeployment will put more officers on the street responding to calls for service and leave fewer officers behind desks. Equally important, it will allow us to increase visibility and get back to some of the community policing principles that have proven effective in the past."
PANO President Mike Glasser said, “The first priority of the NOPD should and must be to answer any call for help or service that we receive, and as such, in the face of severe staffing shortages some non-essential ancillary services must regrettably be temporarily abridged.”
FOP President Walter Powers, Jr. said, “There is no doubt that we need additional manpower in the districts. Moving personnel from administrative positions appears on its face to be a reasonable way to accomplish that goal.”
BOP President Simon Hargove said, “Putting more officers on the street will benefit those officers already out there and will benefit the citizens we serve.”
More boots on the ground will lead to better response times
Having more officers available to respond to citizen calls for service is expected to significantly decrease police response times. In fact, according to the Berkshire Advisors review, putting an additional 94 officers on patrol, will allow the NOPD to respond to 90 percent of all emergency calls for service within 7 minutes.
At the same time, the department is moving forward on innovative solutions to free up officers’ time in the field. In 2015, the City Council unanimously approved an updated false alarm ordinance that, when fully implemented, will free up the equivalent of at least six full-time officers and follow best practices adopted by police departments around the country that allow officers to more quickly respond to actual crimes and focus more efforts on proactive community policing. The program is expected to begin later this year.
Last fall, Chief Harrison moved officers who are currently assigned to desk duty to the Alternative Police Response Unit (APR). The officers work out of the Orleans Parish Communications District and handle non-violent property crime reports where there is no scene to process and no need for an officer to respond in-person. Through this process, citizens who are affected by non-violent property crimes hear from an officer more quickly via phone and in turn, officers on the street are able to focus their time on more violent offenses. In addition, APR assists the NOPD Command Desk with calling complainants back while they wait for an officer to arrive. Year-to-date, the APR has written over 1,540 reports and made over 6,874 call backs to complainants waiting for an officer.
Building on the momentum of the APR, the NOPD is moving toward an on-line reporting system for residents and visitors to report non-violent property crimes to the NOPD that don’t require an officer to arrive on scene. The program is based on successful models already in place in Seattle, Austin and Baltimore. The system is expected to be in place later this year.
Department begins hiring part-time officers
In order to continue to add more qualified officers to the force, the NOPD will hire officers on a part-time basis starting in 2016 for the first time. The department is targeting commissioned officers who left in good standing and want to continue their public service on a part-time basis. Officers hired would be allowed to work up to 24 hours per week. They would be assigned to patrol in police districts to respond to citizen calls for service. The positions are currently open and available. The department expects to begin hiring part-time officers in the coming weeks.
Aggressive plan to grow the department over the next five years
In addition to the new deployment strategy, the department is successfully moving forward with an aggressive plan to grow the force to a size of 1,600 officers. For the first time in several years, the NOPD hired more officers than it has lost through attrition by the end of 2015. Four recruit classes were launched in 2015, bringing the total to eight classes since 2010.
Last week, Mayor Landrieu announced plans for a public safety millage that would increase recruiting staffing and resources to help the department reach the goal of 1,600 officers by 2020. The public will vote on the proposal on the April 9, 2016 ballot.