Tulane University criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf released preliminary results of a monthlong New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) job satisfaction survey, and the majority of its 463 respondents indicated dissatisfaction with current policies, skepticism of new policies and distrust of departmental leaders.
Officials from NOPD and Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration immediately questioned the survey's methodology.
"You see a pattern of distrust" in the results, said Capt. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO), which commissioned the survey. Among those results: 97 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, "The overall department has sufficient manpower." Eighty percent agreed with the statement, "If I could change police departments without losing seniority and/or pension/salary benefits, I would change departments."
A bright spot: 73 percent of officers surveyed said their immediate supervisors were fair in dealing with officers. Only 5 percent, however, said the same of NOPD's top management. Eighty-eight percent disagreed that new policies enacted under Police Chief Ronal Serpas have made NOPD more effective.
"However you can get information about your department is always important," Serpas said at a July 11 press conference called in response to the survey results. "But make no mistake about it. Everybody in the city of New Orleans knows that we're up against a Herculean task. To reform a police department that had clearly gone off the path is clearly a lot of work, but we're making a lot of headway."
Critics of the survey focused primarily on the introduction that went out with the survey. It read, in part, "Now ... we are in the wake of increasing street violence, and faced with more 'plans,' more 'missions,' but fewer and fewer officers due to an appalling attrition rate and astonishingly low morale."
Dr. Lorie Fridell, a criminologist at the University of South Florida, objected to that wording in a statement provided to the media by NOPD. "If a researcher wants to produce valid and reliable survey results, it is critically important that the invitation and introduction to the survey be written in a 'neutral' manner that does not imply the answers or overall results that the researcher hopes to produce," Fridell wrote. "I would not consider the results from a survey with this introduction as valid."
Scharf says his office plans to present a full analysis of the survey and results in August. That will give everyone a better understanding of what officers are thinking, he says: "We're hoping they'll take this and say, 'Here's the core truths.' We think this is a very important study." — Charles Maldonado