Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s proposed 2015 budget includes a $1.5 million increase in funds to help the New Orleans Police Department comply with the terms of a federal consent decree. The extra money will go toward an advertising campaign to attract new recruits, replacement Tasers for officers and a software program to help identify bad cops.
In all, Landrieu has allocated about $7.3 million in 2015 for the consent decree, a federal court order mandating wide-ranging changes to the NOPD. That represents a 26.5 percent increase from this year’s spending on the decree.
The consent decree is expected to cost about $55 million over five years, ending in August 2018. But that depends on whether U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan thinks the city has fully complied with the 492-point reform blueprint that Landrieu and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed in 2012, laying out a raft of big and small reforms for the long-troubled NOPD.
Under the proposed budget, spending on recruitment will climb to $500,000 from $300,000 in 2014, part of an effort aimed at reversing a yearslong manpower slide and eventually returning the force to about 1,600 officers.
Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin said the goal for 2015 is to add 150 new bodies to the force, for a net increase of 60 officers, which would bring the department back above 1,200. That, however, assumes only 90 cops will leave the force next year, an attrition rate well below the figure in recent years.
New NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison has claimed progress in the city’s year-old recruiting drive, and on Friday, he said he’s heard from many officers who have left the department in recent years and now want to return, although he didn’t offer a number.
The recruiting funds will be used for an advertising campaign to solicit new candidates and to contract with Colorado-based KeyPoint to conduct background investigations of potential hires, Jonathan Wisbey, who works for Kopplin, told the council. A slow background check process has been an obstacle to hiring, officials said.
The city also will spend about $670,000 to purchase 350 Tasers to replace those with expired warranties, Wisbey said.
About $2 million will be spent on developing an early warning system for problem officers, one of the “most significant” requirements within the consent decree, Wisbey said. The system will collect data on disciplinary actions, arrests and use-of-force incidents for each officer so they can be compared with one another and other standards, he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also will contribute $4 million to that system in the proposed budget. FEMA’s allocation will pay for the base software package, while the city will pay for staff to oversee technical support and maintenance of the software.
FEMA is scheduled to kick in a total of $5 million for the consent decree. The agency also is contributing to the purchase of in-car cameras and computers.
Among other items in the consent decree budget are $2.1 million for the court-appointed monitor overseeing the decree, the same amount as was spent on that office this year, and $1.2 million to pay the eight city employees and one contract worker who oversee implementation of the decree. The personnel cost is down from $1.3 million this year because of a reduction of two employees.
While police officer groups said it wasn’t enough, Kopplin touted the 5 percent pay raise for officers included in the 2015 budget. The increase will raise cops’ pay an average of about $2,200.
The staff of the Civil Service Commission has recommended a 20 percent increase over three years. Officials made no promises on whether that recommendation would be met, but the topic led Kopplin to pitch a vote on Tuesday’s ballot for a measure that could raise money for police and fire protection in the city.
Officers haven’t seen an across-the-board pay raise since 2007.