When 22-year veteran Daryle Holloway of the New Orleans Police Department was shot to death Saturday, federal and state agencies launched a massive manhunt for his suspected killer.
State Police helicopters hovered above. SWAT teams charged below. The U.S. Marshals Service, FBI and Jefferson Parish and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Offices all converged on a common goal of capturing Travis Boys.
The man credited with the actual arrest of the accused cop killer, however, was a rookie officer two months out of the academy. Officer Dylan Warter spotted Boys buying a po-boy inside a Lower 9th Ward convenience store on Sunday morning, police said, followed him as he boarded an RTA bus, then made the collar.
Warter, 25, made news for his arrest on Sunday. On Tuesday, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison and Mayor Mitch Landrieu welcomed a new class of 33 police recruits who may find themselves in situations just as challenging if they make the cut.
“With the loss of Officer Daryle Holloway, we are more aware than ever of the sacrifice our officers make every day to keep our community safe,” Landrieu said. “I am grateful to the men and women of recruit class No. 173 who are answering the call of duty.”
Many more recruits will have to answer that call, however, if Landrieu is going to fulfill a public pledge to rebuild a depleted force.
The department’s head count now stands at 1,155 officers, including those fresh recruits. That is well below the mayor’s goal of 1,575 and only a hair above the 1,141 sworn officers the department said it had in June of last year. It’s also far below the 1,525 officers on the force when Landrieu took office in 2010, before budget cuts and burnout cut into the ranks.
Officials believe a 10 percent pay raise announced in May will entice more officers to join the force or to stay on the job. But they acknowledge that despite a new recruiting website and a flashy television advertising campaign, they have made only halting progress in bulking up the force over the past year.
Harrison said that with changes cutting down on red tape in the application process, newer equipment for officers and those higher salaries, applications have picked up and he expects that to translate into a higher head count soon.
“I think it was slow going at first, but I think you’re starting to see traction,” he said. “I think it could be a lot faster and a lot better, but I’m happy.”
Officials on Tuesday also hailed a temporary new training facility on the campus of the University of New Orleans. Recruits will learn in college-style classrooms at the Lindy C. Boggs International Conference Center instead of the old academy facilities at 4600 Paris Ave. That location opened for training only in 2009 but was quickly deemed obsolete.
New Academy Commander Richard A. Williams, installed by Harrison in October, said at a May court hearing that the force is making strides to improve its lesson plans, adding teachers and calling in instructors from agencies like the FBI to improve the quality of its education.
Federal consent decree monitors continued to question the NOPD’s recruitment practices and the strength of the education offered inside the academy’s walls in an April quarterly report.
They raised concerns about what they said was the NOPD’s mechanical interview process for new recruits, which they said would be more “appropriate to hire a person to conduct a factory job that does not change or require human interaction.” They also said the police force still had no meaningful system for evaluating academy courses and instructors.
“We continue to have significant concerns regarding the pace of change at the academy,” the monitors wrote. “Efforts are in process to cure these deficiencies, but they have not been cured yet.”