Days before Ray Nagin was scheduled to go on trial for federal bribery charges, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas blasted the former mayor’s administration on Friday.
During a weekly meeting a police headquarters, Serpas blamed the Nagin administration for budget problems the department suffered starting in 2010.
“We nearly tripled attrition in one year,” Serpas said about the year he took his post.
Serpas blamed the attrition on Nagin’s overspending, adding that the NOPD was just this year starting to recover from the damage.
For the first time in years, Serpas announced, the department would be hiring a significant number of officers, and would continue to do so every year for the next four years.
“Four years from now, things won’t look the same,” Serpas said during Friday’s meeting.
Serpas said the officers are sorely needed. NOPD statistics show that by October 2013 the number of NOPD officers was at a 39-year low.
At that time, there were about 1,200 officers in the New Orleans Police Department, according to an article in WWLTV, when Serpas said the city needs 1,575.
“What people lose sight of, is that it takes a long time for the government to right itself,” Serpas added.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu made similar remarks before presenting his administration’s 2014 budget to City Council in October 2013, when he announced that he was prepared to fund the recruitment of 150 more officers at a cost of $300,000.
“Our work was cut out for us when in 2010 we inherited a City Hall that was living far, far beyond its means,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “The city was spending $5 for every $4 we took in, or nearly $100 million more per year than what we could actually afford. Our savings account was emptied and almost $300 million in loans, spent.”
Indeed, statistics show pared down budgets since 2010 when Nagin left office and Landrieu took over.
City documents show the NOPD had an operating budget of $134,970,675 in 2008, compared to a budget of $129,586,401 in 2009.
By 2010, the budget was as low as $117,852,205.
But the cuts were necessary, Landrieu said.
“Starting in 2010, we took the initiative and have made the tough decisions to ensure the future of our city,” the statement added.
Among the initiatives that Landrieu made to balance the budget included cutting overtime and implementing hiring freezes — both of which Serpas said hurt the NOPD significantly.
“We were obliterated,” Serpas said.
The force felt the cuts, he added, as police morale was low. According to another article in WWLTV, the NOPD has lost nearly 300 officers to resignation, retirement or dismissal since 2010, graduating a recruit class of only 26 officers in November.
He ended on a positive note, however, praising the work of the officers who stuck it out as promotions were held back and money was tight.
“I think we’re finally going in the right direction,” Serpas said. “So, keep focused.”