Scrambling to deal with a critical manpower shortage, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison has asked the Civil Service Commission to get rid of a rule requiring new recruits to have at least 60 hours of higher education credits or military experience to be hired. But after objections surfaced from the City Council, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration agreed to hold off on the request until the commission meets in March.

In a letter dated Dec. 29, Harrison argued that the higher education rule is hurting “NOPD’s ability to recruit and hire qualified police officers by excluding … those who cannot afford a higher education.” He asked for the matter to be taken up at Monday’s meeting.

The City Council objected, however, and sent a letter signed by all seven members asking Landrieu to withdraw the department’s request until a better solution can be explored.

Council President Stacy Head said that while the city can’t afford to exclude good police prospects just because they have only a high school diploma or GED, studies have shown a strong correlation between higher educational achievement and better policing.

She suggested a more nuanced model for finding more qualified applicants so the city can expand the number of police academy recruiting classes and speed up hiring.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, “they look at a series of factors, such as if you’ve worked … in a security-related industry, (or) if you’ve got seven years’ experience in another supervisory position where you deal with the public and you’ve done well,” Head said.

Harrison’s letter to the Civil Service Commission noted that surrounding parishes do not have a higher-education requirement. He also contended that other big-city departments that have eliminated higher-education requirements, such as Austin, Texas, “are part of an emerging trend across the country, where many industries are prioritizing workforce training over formal classroom education.”

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