New Orleans officials said Tuesday they will soon begin to focus police recruitment efforts on several major cities and military veterans as they struggle to fill Police Academy recruit classes.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has said the NOPD, whose ranks have shrunk to a little more than 1,100 officers, needs close to 1,600 cops.

The City Council approved a $128.6 million budget for the NOPD for 2014 that includes money for five recruit classes totaling 150 officers, but the city has had a hard time finding qualified applicants. Halfway through the year, only one recruit class has started training.

Still, Serpas and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said they are confident they will be able to swell the department’s ranks in coming months.

The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports the department, has begun the second phase of a $500,000 marketing campaign seeking to find new officers not only in New Orleans but also in other cities including Houston, Chicago and Miami.

Although only three candidates are cleared for the second of the five planned 30-member classes, Serpas said he anticipates being able to fill out that class and send its members to the academy by the end of August or early September.

Seventy-four applicants are going through background checks right now, he said.

Completing background checks for hopeful officers has delayed the process, Serpas said, but new hires in the Civil Service Department have resulted in a “slight uptick” in that process.

“We will have 1,600 people in this Police Department,” Serpas said.

“Our message has been clear: This is one of our priorities,” Landrieu said of the recruitment efforts.

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Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.