Police arrest suspect in officer’s shooting _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Interim Superintendent of Police, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Michael S. Harrison speaks outside NOPD headquarters about the shooting of NOPD officer Jonathan Smith, 44, earlier in the day at Gene's Po-Boys in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014.

In an effort to provide the New Orleans Police Department with more flexibility to fight its ongoing manpower slide, the City Council on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan to raise the cap on the number of recruits the department can have in any one Police Academy class.

The council unanimously passed a resolution urging Morgan to amend a federal consent decree that governs reforms at the department and increase the cap from 30 to 50 recruits per class.

The limit is supposed to ensure that new officers receive the proper training. But Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said a 50-person class would not compromise the quality of training new officers receive.

“By increasing class size from 30 to perhaps 50 or larger, we feel confident that the instructors that we have right now are able to deliver quality training,” Harrison said.

He added that down the line, the department will need a larger facility in which to train officers, as well as more instructors.

“But for right now, I believe we can accomplish our short-term goals by just lifting the class size and keeping the number of instructors we have,” Harrison said.

The Police Department has been trying for years to stem attrition on the force. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is aiming to eventually bulk up the department to about 1,600 officers. The goal for 2015 is to add 150 new recruits, which would bring the department back above 1,200, assuming only 90 officers leave the force next year.

“There are only so many lateral hires or former officers we can pull in,” Councilman Jason Williams said. “So this measure, I hope, can at least get you closer to being able to get more recruits out and make sure that we’re maintaining our quality control.”

Right now, the Police Department has two recruit classes, one with 20 recruits and the other with 29, Harrison said. The department is not planning to raise the number of classes going at any one time.

Under Landrieu’s proposed 2015 budget, spending on recruitment will climb to $500,000, up from $300,000 in 2014. Landrieu’s office also has budgeted a 5 percent pay raise for officers next year — the first across-the-board increase since 2007.