By: Allen Johnson
Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley, and tourism industry officials last week kicked off a $1 million police recruiting drive to offset the phased withdrawal of 300 National Guard troops from New Orleans beginning next month. We want to get to 1,600 officers as quickly as possible, Riley says, optimally by mid-2009.
Nagin says NOPD is now at 1,468 cops and counting. NOPD recorded a high of 1,741 officers in 2005, but that figure dropped to 1,668 right before Katrina. Raw totals do not tell the whole story, however. A key term when considering NOPD force levels is current effective personnel strength, which Riley defined in congressional testimony last year as the NOPDs total commissioned members minus those on long-term illness/injury and all recruits. On April 7, 2007, Riley told Congress that NOPDs current effective personnel strength was 1,227. Since then, aided by hefty pay raises, training bonuses, education incentives and equipment, both recruitment and retention of officers have improved. As of last week, NOPDs strength stood at 1,338 sworn officers subtracting 55 recruits in the academy and 81 officers out sick or injured. Thats an increase of 111 over a year ago. Despite those gains, Riley will be hard-pressed to make up for losing the National Guard. The last troops are scheduled to leave by September