I’ve followed the story enfolding in the media regarding the waiting time for police response with great trepidation. Many individuals have long decried the understaffed ranks of the New Orleans Police Department and have borne witness, with increasing alarm, to the effect it has had on department morale as well as eroding public confidence.
The city proposes to increase the amount of recruit classes and predicts that, over several years, these recruits will eventually outpace attrition. But it doesn’t solve the immediate problem.
The French Quarter just taxed itself to pay for the State Police to continue to supplement protection, and dozens of neighborhoods have elected to tax themselves for private security. This is not a viable short-term solution for the majority of this city to address the manpower shortage or the wait times our citizens face.
There is, however, another option.
There are almost a dozen law enforcement agencies located within the City of New Orleans in addition to the NOPD. All have a variety of backgrounds and training as well as a significant amount of POST-certified officers (Police Officer Standards and Training). These pre-existing agencies, employed by subdivisions of the state of Louisiana, are the solution to this short-term crisis.
In the 2015 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature, I passed Senate Bill 149 (ACT No. 262) creating the Law Enforcement Management District of Orleans Parish. The primary purpose of this entity is to bring all of these state agencies to the table to facilitate cooperative endeavor agreements and memorandums of understanding with the city of New Orleans.
A great example of what these agencies can do lies in what some had previously done.
Before Katrina, the Orleans Levee District Police patrolled from the Lakefront to Filmore throughout Lakeview and Gentilly as well as down Haynes Boulevard through New Orleans East. Having an agency like the Levee Police respond to low-priority requests would effectively take those items out of the queue that bogs down the NOPD, lower wait times, and make law enforcement more efficient.
Now expand that idea and apply it citywide. We have a sheriff and two constables. We have seven university, college or community college police departments as well as the Levee Police and the Harbor Police.
Certainly this is a complicated proposition, but if there is a possibility that we can create greater coordination and cooperation of these agencies, working with the NOPD, to provide any relief, it’s an option we must explore. For too long we’ve constantly heard that things “can’t be done” or “that’s the way it is.” When it comes to taking back control of our city, it’s time for solutions now.
The Law Enforcement Management District of Orleans Parish will have its first meeting later this month. I encourage citizens to show up to share their ideas and concerns, so we can work together to make our city safer.
Jean Paul “J.P.” Morrell of New Orleans is the state senator for District 3.