Most New Orleans police officers would get raises of at least 10 percent, and changes would be made to reward those seeking careers as detectives, under a plan unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other city officials.
The plan seeks both to bolster the city’s effort to recruit new officers and to encourage those already with the department to stick around, rather than retiring or moving on to other agencies.
The raises are expected to cost between $9 million and $10 million a year.
If approved by the City Council, the new pay plan would take effect in January. The raises would be on top of a 15 percent pay boost that all officers received two years ago.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry, one of three council members who attended a news conference announcing the plan, offered her support. She said a tax hike will not be needed to pay for the increases.
The NOPD has been struggling for years to increase the size of its force. Meanwhile, the city is facing an upswing in violent crimes.
“Despite our best effort and recent periods of good progress, today, no one is happy with where we are,” Landrieu said at the news conference. “Not me, not the council members, not the citizens and not the men and women that protect and serve us.
“People are concerned, and I understand their impatience. Crime is up in the city, and it’s unacceptable."
Under the plan, officers in entry-level positions in the department would see a 10.5 percent increase in pay, to about $46,900 in base pay.
More experienced patrol officers, spread among three pay categories, would be combined into one category and would see their base salaries rise between 5 percent and 16 percent a year. A new category would offer even higher rates.
Sergeants, lieutenants, captains and majors would see an increase of between 6.4 percent and 19 percent in their salaries, with majors' base salaries reaching about $81,000 a year.
The plan seeks to increase the salary distinctions between different job classifications to address an issue that some lower-ranked officers can make as much or more than their superiors.
The plan to reward those working as detectives follows complaints that experienced investigators are sometimes forced to leave their jobs as detectives in order to advance their careers by shifting to police districts, where they can earn promotions to higher ranks.
Capt. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said the plan "is much more than a simple pay raise for police. ... It is an aggressive and innovative change in career philosophy that will significantly diminish attrition, improve morale and encourage recruitment to the benefit of public safety citywide."
The overall proposal, which has been under discussion for months and included input from the police unions, will be included in the 2018 budget plan Landrieu will put before the City Council later this month.
While the administration typically proposes its spending plan for the following year in October, Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said the schedule was moved up this year to avoid having budget hearings “in the middle of a contentious election.” The mayoral and council primary will be Oct. 14.
For the first two years, the money for the raises would come from sales of city assets, including some connected with the lease of the former World Trade Center building for redevelopment into a Four Seasons hotel and condos, Landrieu said.
The administration settled on that approach after floating the idea of putting a tax increase before the voters, something that members of the City Council opposed.
In later years, officials are projecting that growth in city revenues and money that is freed up as unrelated city debts are paid off will cover the higher pay levels.
“I think this is a smart investment, an innovative way to put together those pieces of the budget and providing those tools and resources to our Police Department,” Councilman Jared Brossett said.
The plan has been submitted to bond rating agencies to ensure they will not consider it a use of one-time money to pay ongoing expenses, something that can hurt a government’s credit rating, Landrieu said.
The pay increase comes on top of other efforts to boost the department’s staffing level in recent years. Even though 334 new officers have joined the force since 2010, the NOPD has seen its overall strength remain relatively stagnant — several hundred officers fewer than when Landrieu took office in 2010 — because of retirements and resignations.
Previous moves to swell the ranks included a 15 percent salary increase in 2015, stepped-up recruiting efforts with a national hiring campaign, the relaxation of education requirements for recruits and changes to make the hiring process more accessible.
“We don’t have a mandatory draft. I can’t make people be police officers,” Landrieu said. “But everyone asks how to fight crime — one way is to join the Police Department.”
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