As he struggles to sell New Orleans police officers on a new city-run system for managing off-duty details — and fill the demand from customers who want their security provided by those in NOPD blue — Mayor Mitch Landrieu has asked a federal judge to quickly take control of pay rates for the off-duty jobs from the City Council and also to hike those rates.
The city asked U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan on Friday to change one word of the 122-page consent decree that Landrieu and Attorney General Eric Holder signed nearly two years ago — replacing “city” with “court” control of detail pay.
It also asked Morgan to raise the base pay for details by about $5 for lower-ranking cops, from $29.33 to $34, and by $7 an hour for police brass, from $39 to $46.
The city’s motion, which went unopposed by the U.S. Department of Justice, also asks the judge to set a tiered rate schedule that would pay officers as much as $67 an hour for some jobs, and grant the Office of Police Secondary Employment inside City Hall the ability to make one-time adjustments to detail pay “when a customer or event demands that other rates be paid to ensure successful security coverage of an event.”
The motion asks Morgan to speed her consideration of the changes. In an affidavit this week, OPSE director John Salomone cited a pressing need to fill detail jobs for the Essence Festival over the Fourth of July weekend, when tens of thousands of visitors are expected to be in town.
The amendment to the consent decree would strip the power to set detail rates from a City Council that, at the administration’s request, did just that last August. It appears designed to sidestep thorny politics and let the city swiftly adjust off-duty pay in cases where the supply of officers runs short.
“The inability to deviate from the established fee schedule deprives NOPD officers of certain job opportunities and denies potential customers the benefits of using trained NOPD officers,” the city argued in the 12-page motion Friday.
Customers for police details would pay an administrative fee to the city of from $3.57 to $5, depending on the job, with a discount for frequent customers.
Landrieu’s administration took a similar tack with a City Council committee in May, when Salomone proposed a move to a tiered pay schedule — in some cases as high as $73 an hour for some hard-to-fill and last-minute detail jobs.
What he got in return was an earful of frustration from council members over a rift between the administration and officer groups who challenge the premise that the old way of handling details — cops making their own deals and doling out the work to colleagues — was rife with corruption.
The council has yet to vote on Salomone’s plan.
Donovan Livaccari, a spokesman for the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, which sued and lost over the detail reforms, said he wasn’t certain why the city wants the change.
“I guess it’s an attempt to circumvent the council, or it’s an attempt to circumvent public comment on the matter or the participation of stakeholders,” he said. “We’re against it.”
A recent quarterly report from the court-appointed monitoring team overseeing the NOPD reform pact praised Salomone and the new city agency’s work, citing “impressive” statistics and “growing success” in converting a lightly regulated system of off-duty police jobs to city control.
Ironically, the move to grant Morgan more power over the detail system comes a year and a day after Landrieu tried to scrap the consent decree altogether, arguing in part that the detail reforms didn’t belong under federal court oversight.
“Not only are these reforms unnecessary to address any alleged constitutional deficiency at NOPD, because none exists, but they create a host of potential legal conflicts and contribute to the excessive cost of reform,” the city argued in a failed federal appeal.