Attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) asked the New Orleans Civil Service Commission last week to stop approving requests for provisional promotions in the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). Provisional promotions are made at management's discretion without the normally required testing and training.
Such promotions have become the norm because the city's Civil Service Department has routinely been denied funding for promotional exams. During budget talks in November, personnel administrator Lisa Hudson told the City Council that the department has not given promotional exams for sergeants since 2007.
Police Chief Ronal Serpas and Mayor Mitch Landrieu did not recommend a $147,000 Civil Service budget request for sergeant exams in the 2013 budget. As a result, sergeant and captain registers have expired, FOP attorney Donovan Livaccari said, and NOPD has made at-will appointments.
Livaccari said the lack of funding for tests and the elimination of promotions lists constitute an "end-around" the city's civil service rules, which are designed to protect against political favoritism in hiring and promotions. "The superintendent has made it clear that he wants to make provisional appointments," Livaccari said. "All of this flies in the face of a merit-based system. It's not good for the department. It's not good for the employees."
Attorney Raymond Burkart, who represents FOP, said under the current system a patrol officer with virtually no training could quickly advance to provisional sergeant to provisional lieutenant and finally as high as district commander, "without any kind of schooling, any kind of study. Nothing." Burkart asked the commission to refuse the promotions until the City Council provides extra funding for tests.
"It's not about politics as far as [the Civil Service Commission is] concerned," he said. "It's about politics as far as the provisional sergeant appointments, the provisional captains, the provisional lieutenants are concerned." — Charles Maldonado