New Orleans has pushed a neo-liberal agenda of privatizing public services about as far as one would think possible, and handing the policing of downtown over to the discretion of bar owners might be a bridge too far. Private patrols have been repeatedly cited as straining our 911 system, encouraging corruption and draining New Orleans Police Department resources. They are not a solution, nor is policing Bourbon Street the greatest need, though the media focus on the June 29 shooting has pulled attention from the string of rapes and armed robberies in the larger downtown area.
Our police force has dwindled over the past several years for any number of reasons, but indisputably a primary factor has been increased scrutiny into bad practices and the federal consent decree. If retired police officers are to be hired, who, precisely, will be screening them? Even those who retired after years of good service were trained under procedures that have come under fire from numerous civil rights organizations and the Department of Justice.
The concept of solving a manpower shortage by engaging off-duty police is even more patently absurd. Adding more hours of work for our already overworked and underpaid officers is not a public safety solution. Even with the best training in the world, there is a strictly finite amount of time anyone who carries a gun should be on duty, especially on a beat that is the equivalent of being a piñata at a 7-year-old’s birthday party.
The city should block this move and address the ongoing resource drain in the 8th District by shifting noise enforcement to the Health Department, where it belongs. Chief Ronal Serpas should focus on recruiting new NOPD officers by identifying promising high school students and supporting them in getting their required college hours. Our business and community leaders should focus on creating the kind of economic growth that actually decreases crime by providing living wage jobs and a more equitable city.