The push to address manpower issues in the New Orleans Police Department is on.

Besides ramping up recruitment efforts and moving to create a task force of civilians to assist police in the French Quarter, the department is asking former officers who have retired or left the force to volunteer as unpaid reserve officers.

At a news conference Thursday, Superintendent Michael Harrison and Reserve Division Cmdr. Louis Dabdoub voiced high hopes for expanding this part of the force. The reserve division now has 70 officers who mainly patrol around the French Quarter.

Dabdoub said he will hold an informational meeting for interested former officers at 10 a.m. Saturday at police headquarters. He said he believes the number of reserve officers can be in the triple digits by the summer.

“Being a retired police officer myself,” said Dabdoub, a former captain in the NOPD, “it isn’t what you did for a living; it was who you are. It never leaves you.”

Harrison highlighted two incentives that he believes will entice more former officers to join the reserves. One is the ability for an officer to maintain the rank he had when he left the NOPD, up to the rank of captain. The other is a $500 uniform stipend, which is new.

“None of us ever signed up for the pay,” Harrison said. “We signed up to serve. We signed up to protect. We signed up to do what’s right.”

To remain among the ranks of reserves, officers must work a minimum of 24 hours per month. If they work at least 36 hours, they also will be eligible to work paid details.

In early January, WWL-TV reported the NOPD was down to just 300 platoon officers responding to calls for service. The station noted that the department had a total of 1,148 sworn officers, far below its target of 1,600. That number did not include reserve officers.

The department also has 58 recruits going through training.