New Orleans Police Department wins $2 million in federal grants for 15 new cops, more body cameras _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison smiles at an interview question in his office in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice this week announced more than $2 million in grants for the New Orleans Police Department that will be used to hire 15 new community policing officers and buy additional body cameras.

Although the NOPD and Justice Department are often at odds in court hearings over a 2012 reform agreement, the agency has been opening the federal purse strings for Crescent City cops this month. A few weeks ago, the Justice Department said it would give the NOPD $1 million to help clear up a backlog of rape kits.

The lion’s share of the latest infusion — just shy of $1.9 million — will be spent on 15 officers assigned to community policing. That money was part of $107 million in grants doled out to cities across the country on Monday.

The money will support the officers’ salaries for three years. The city did not say where and how the new officers will be deployed.

The department has lagged in meeting Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s goal of hiring hundreds of new officers, but recruiting has been the stumbling block recently, rather than a lack of money to pay for new cops.

The NOPD separately won a $237,000 grant for body-worn cameras from the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance program. That grant requires a 50-50 cash match. The city said the funds will be used to purchase 250 new cameras.

The federal monitors overseeing the NOPD’s reform agreement with the Justice Department wrote in an April report that most officers responding to calls for service had been outfitted with the cameras by that time. Problems with storing the videos captured at crime scenes lingered, however.

The grant for body cameras stems from a proposal made by President Barack Obama in December to provide $75 million in matching funds for such cameras. Obama made the proposal in response to what he described as “simmering distrust” between police and minority groups nationwide.