The New Orleans Police Department’s quality-of-life officers in each district are being reassigned to patrol duties in order to increase the number of sworn officers on the streets and reduce response times to emergency calls, a top-ranking NOPD officer explained to the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization on Monday.
NOPD Deputy Superintendent Paul Noel, who leads the department’s Field Operations Bureau, said that the new deployment plan is an effort to improve response times and will start “in a few weeks.”
“Our response times have been pretty poor,” Noel said. “And one of the main reasons with that is we just don’t have enough officers in the field to properly call and get those responses for service.”
The Berkshire Advisors consulting firm studied NOPD calls for service and determined that the department needs 94 additional officers to respond to emergency calls within a goal of 7 minutes, Noel explained.
Noel said it sometimes took officers much longer to respond to emergency calls while he was the Second District NOPD Commander.
“I can tell you that a lot of times people would have an emergency, and it would take our officers 30 and 40 minutes to get out there just because our officers are overwhelmed,” Noel said.
According to Noel, one of the things the department will do to put more officers on the street is to cut administrative and mechanic functions.
“Many of those we are going to back fill by hiring civilian staff, which we always should have done,” Noel said.
According to Noel, when the department’s budget was “tight” in the past, the first positions to be fired were those filled by civilians.
Noel said that now the department is properly funded to hire staff.
“As City Council has graciously funded the police department the way it needs to be funded we now have the funding sources to go and hire those civilians and put police officers back on the streets,” Noel said.
However, Noel said that the new deployment plan will affect the quality-of-life officers within the districts. Over the past five years, quality-of-life officers were responsible for dealing with complaints such as barking dogs, disputes with neighbors, abandoned cars and other problems that could not compete with emergency calls for officers’ attention, but still needed a police response.
According to Noel, every officer in the department will be tasked with responding to quality of life issues, rather than having specific officers designated for the responsibility.
“Each officer on the street will have about 15 minutes for every hour that they work, dedicated to giving community and quality of life services,” Noel said.
Noel said the new design of the Quality of Life officer program is a “trade off” of losing one officer, but gaining many more.
“This was a tough choice but I really do believe this was necessary and more importantly I believe that the end product is going to be much better for the city,” Noel said.
Noel said that the transition might be difficult at first and said that he will work to make a plan that works for neighbors.
“You have to bear with us. We are going to have some growing pains with this, but I’m going to work really hard with leadership to make sure that we work through those pains and we have a plan that works for you guys,” he said.
“You have my commitment that if something doesn’t work, we will come at it in a different way to try to make it work,” Noel said.
For a formal press release on the new deployment plan click here.