NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — The city’s first responders have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, Mardi Gras and hurricane season to keep the city safe. However, NOPD leader Shaun Ferguson says officers continue to leave en masse.
“That’s the fewest officers I’ve seen in my 24-year tenure,” Ferguson said.
The city administration has drawn up a plan to recruit and retain more first responders with bonuses, begging the public service commission to approve the plan.
“We don’t have time to wait any longer and we can’t live without it,” said Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
The initial plan would pay bonuses to NOPD officers, EMS, equipment maintenance and juvenile detention officers.
However, with the civil service commissions legally concerned, the city could run into problems especially with the tiered bonuses for officers based on their years of service.
“I’m all for public safety, but we can’t get into a legal problem because we’ll have far more consequences than we might expect,” a commissioner said.
“What happens if the AG decides to audit this? What if an audit should take place? said Commissioner Brittany Richardson.
“Great, bring it on,” Cantrell said.
The commission initially canceled the plan, but after a series of amendments and motions to adopt elements of the proposal, Cantrell hit back at the commissioners.
“We won’t divide and it’s all or nothing, and it looks like you’re ready to send a slap in the face to the men and women of the NOPD wanting to hold them back or hold them back from this package,” Cantrell said.
“I refute that, I refute that,” Richardson said.
“I think the city was very defensive about the plan,” PANO spokesman Eric Hessler said.
Ultimately, the Civil Service Commission adopted the plan in its entirety, subject to a favorable opinion from the Attorney General.
“It’s because of the city workers, the city workers that I’m willing to endorse it,” Richardson said.
The New Orleans Police Association, however, says a promise to pay in the future still won’t be enough to keep officers.
“I don’t think PANO will ever apologize for asking more for its police officers, especially when it’s needed and deserved,” Eric Hessler said.
In a statement, a city spokesperson said:
“We are pleased that the Civil Service Commission voted to move forward with our compensation plan today – alongside its own request to the state’s GA. Any delay in this process is detrimental to public safety at a critical time. This is only the first step in our ongoing efforts to retain agents, but it is an important step. We thank the Commission for its vote.
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson released the following statement:
We thank the Public Service Commission for granting our request for a change to the compensation plan to establish a retention allowance subject to a favorable opinion from the Louisiana Attorney General.
In New Orleans and across the country, men and women are leaving law enforcement at an unsustainable rate.
The retention incentives adopted today are a first step in keeping officers in uniform and will also serve as a recruiting tool for the future.
While we know there is still work to be done, we are committed to providing a positive work environment for the men and women of NOPD. This proposal will help us achieve that goal.
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