New Orleans City Council committee proposes plan to give police annual pay raises | Crime/Police

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a plan earlier this year to slow the startling rate of officers leaving the New Orleans Police Department. Now the city council also has a plan.

The council’s criminal justice committee on Tuesday advanced District B councilman Lesli Harris’s proposal to consider giving cops 2% annual pay raises. The unanimous vote came amid a discussion between a police task force and city leaders about how to curb spiraling attrition.

Cantrell would like to give cops bonuses of $5,000 for every five years of service, rising to $20,000 for officers who have spent two decades on the force. But that plan is in limbo as the Public Service Commission awaits word from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office on whether it is legal.

Harris’ latest proposal underscores the great concern city officials have when it comes to trying to hold back police officers. NOPD staff numbers plunged 10% last year to the lowest point since the 1960s, a drop that has forced the shortening of carnival parade routes and prompted greater scrutiny of the department’s response to the increasing levels of violent crime.

The problem is not limited to New Orleans. Departments across the United States are struggling to recruit and retain officers, including at Jefferson Parish, which recently topped a mile aimed at giving deputies pay raises.

Harris says she’ll go ahead with her proposal no matter what happens with the mayor’s bonus idea. Under his plan, cops would receive 2% annual pay raises after they’ve done three years on the job, until they’ve reached 23 years of service.

The price has yet to be determined, but it could raise the salaries of 867 of the roughly 1,000 NOPD officers.

Harris’ order was voted down by the committee 5-0, meaning it has already won the support of a majority of council. After full approval, the salary increase plan would be sent to the Public Service Commission for review, then returned to the board for another vote. Officers currently earn $56,566 after one year on the force.

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District B Councilmember Lesli Harris speaks during a City Council meeting in the Council Chambers of New Orleans City Hall, Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA .com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

The Cantrell administration did not immediately comment on Harris’ proposal, but it differs significantly from the mayor’s bonus plan. This plan would not offer regular salary increases between five-year milestones.

The bonus idea has split the organizations that represent rank-and-file cops. The Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Organization of Police support the idea. However, the New Orleans Police Association warned that the plan could have the unintended effect of increasing attrition if officers jump ship after accepting lump sum payments.

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GDP in the spotlight

Two representatives of the Police Association made an appearance on Tuesday to implore the council to launch a full investigation into the police department’s office of public integrity, along the lines of the council’s ongoing investigation into the failure of the administration’s “smart city” project.

The discussion was spurred by another Harris order that would require mandatory rotations of newly promoted officers in the office, which investigates officer misconduct. Harris postponed the order without calling a vote so she could request more data from the office.

PANO, the smaller of the city’s two largest police task forces, has a long battle with the office of the Public Service Commission. In recent years, he has filed a broader complaint that the office is being used as a tool by elements of the department’s leadership to punish their enemies. Investigations are also taking far too long, the group claims.

Mike Glasser, president of the Police Association, said Tuesday that officers frequently cite the bureau as the reason they jump ship for jobs at other law enforcement agencies.

“Why are they leaving? Why does this happen? ” he said. “It’s the same comment: GDP.

Still, Arlinda Westbrook, deputy chief of the office of public integrity, said the association’s complaints were misplaced. His office does not need a city council investigation because it is already overseen by the city’s independent police comptroller, federal law enforcement and federal consent decree comptrollers, he said. she stated.

She noted that these federal monitors have routinely assessed the office as compliant with the 2012 NOPD Reform Agreement — an agreement spurred by revelations of widespread constitutional violations that have not been vetted by internal investigators in the past. .

The office has previously worked with other police organizations to convert minor offense investigations into more informal advice in response to their complaints, she said.

“We have consistently asked the New Orleans Police Association to work with us to find solutions,” she said. “What you keep hearing are independent and isolated cases. Overall, do we have a systematic problem? Nope.”

The council has not committed to the idea of ​​opening its own formal investigation. Council President Helena Moreno said she fears it will interfere with an ongoing federal investigation. The FBI is investigating 11 officers for alleged double jeopardy with itemized off-duty pay, including the former senior officer in the Office of Public Integrity.

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