Twenty-nine New Orleans police recruits on Tuesday began 25 weeks of training in hopes of becoming the newest officers to patrol the city.
Recruit class No. 171 begins as class No. 170 continues its training, with the graduation of 27 new officers set for November.
The City Council approved a $128.6 million budget for the Police Department for 2014 that included money for five recruit classes totaling 150 officers.
City leaders have said they need that many recruits in order to begin to rebuild the force, whose numbers have dwindled to about 1,100 as more and more officers retire or resign.
City leaders have said the NOPD should be about 1,600 officers strong, but only the two recruit classes have begun training.
The members of class No. 171 are joined by three former NOPD officers who left the force on good terms and have decided to return, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said.
“These recruits are joining the NOPD at a critical time in our city’s history as we work to rebuild the ranks of this department,” interim Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said. “Now more than ever, public safety is our top priority.”
While it has been a struggle to fill the classes, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has made NOPD recruiting one of his priorities, and the department is in the second phase of a campaign which is now focusing on finding officer candidates in other major cities, including Houston, Chicago and Miami, and targeting military veterans.
“We are committed to building a robust Police Department and recruiting the best and brightest to protect our city,” Landrieu said.