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Monday, February 6, 2012

Press release (sort of): "re: Discontent within the NOPD"

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2012 at 3:50 PM

As first reported by Fox 8, the following letter has been posted on the Police Association of New Orleans' (PANO) website since yesterday. It's not attributed to PANO but to "a platoon of officers from a police district in the NOPD" and details a number of complaints about the department's current direction.

Gambit has requested NOPD comment on the letter and is awaiting a response here's a statement from Superintendent Ronal Serpas:

"We regularly hear from hundreds of hard-working New Orleans Police officers who appreciate that this department is undergoing a transformation to make it better, and they're excited to be a part of this. I want to thank them for their dedication, their patience, and I share with them their desire to succeed so that we can better serve the people of New Orleans."

Specific issues highlighted in the letter:

—An alleged shift of focus from responding to citizen complaints to "obtaining ‘stats’ (arrests and other 'activity' to generate statistical evidence of work), so the leadership can have numbers to justify their actions"

—The department's new policy of issuing summonses, rather than arresting offenders, for many misdemeanors and municipal violations, in cases where suspects' have no serious criminal records. The anonymous officers say "should be left to the discretion of the officer and his supervisors in the field."

Note: Of course, that policy was implemented as a response to reports showing that NOPD arrest rates were remarkably high, filling up jails and costing the city in per diem payments to the sheriff's office, not to mention eating up police officers' time. The Department of Justice, in its March 2011-released investigation (PDF link) of the NOPD, also criticized the department for being too arrest-focused.

—Manpower: "Of the estimated manpower of 1300 Officers, the platoons who provide the basic police service, the uniformed officers in your neighborhood who answer your calls, are about 300 to 400. These men and women, with some exceptions, are forced to work in one Officer units. This is dangerous for the Officers as well as for the Citizens who depend on us."

(Read the full letter plus the PANO introduction after the jump)

re: Discontent Within the NOPD

Throughout the last year, and increasingly in the past few months, the Executive Board of the Police Association of New Orleans has been fielding complaints by rank and file members of the New Orleans Police Department relative to policies, strategies, and procedures being created or adopted, and implemented by the administration of the New Orleans Police Department. It is no secret that in the overall, violence and the criminal acts which spawn that violence are on the rise. The members of the department with whom we have spoken have been critical of the plans, strategies and policies with which they have been forced to operate. At first the objections were largely personal, as it affected their function in the department individually, and then the objections became more systemic; as it translated into the failed ability to keep the public safe. No one likes to fail, and in our case, when we fail, people lose property, get injured, die. If it is frustrating to the citizens, it should be apparent that it is even more frustrating for those sworn to prevent it. And in the end, we are citizens too.

Having given this administration nearly two years to improve public safety, it obviously has not succeeded. The frustration and discontent within the ranks of the NOPD has resulted in more frequent and more intense objections to the adminstration of this department. What follows is a letter to the citizens of New Orleans by a platoon of officers from a police district in the NOPD. Which platoon, and which district is irrelevant. It is the words of the officers, not those of PANO. This letter represents what we are hearing all over the department and from all ranks and commands. And as such, it becomes the words of the Association.

The Police Association of New Orleans has proudly represented the rank and file members of the NOPD for 42 years,. Therefore, it remains the obligation of the Association to forward these remarks, and those that may follow, to the people of New Orleans from their police, as the voice they cannot themselves, risk without fear of reprisal.

Dear Citizens of New Orleans,

We, the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department, would like to express our concern to you about our current state of affairs. Most of our officers entered their career in Law Enforcement because of a desire to help and to protect citizens in need. We are experiencing difficulty in doing this at this time.

The basic police service is to provide officers at the platoon level (uniformed officers) to answer your calls for service and to patrol your neighborhoods. Under the last several Superintendents, this has not been a priority. Emphasis has been placed on pro-active units which don’t respond to citizens’ calls for service and rather than patrol your neighborhoods, their focus is on obtaining ‘stats’ (arrests and other “activity” to generate statistical evidence of work), so the leadership can have numbers to justify their actions.

We have continuously expressed our concerns and needs to our leaders, but they continue to ignore our pleas, responding with ‘political’ answers that don’t directly answer our concerns, or we are told that our needs are “not an option”. This neglect of our needs has caused many of us to become frustrated, disgruntled, and to question our career choice as well as question our continued loyalty to the department.

Our manpower and resources are spread thin in order to concentrate on pro-active policing and more recently, to satisfy the requirements of our Data Driven programs (DDACT), rather than on the basic police service. There is a need for all of these policing tactics, but with the number of officers leaving the department, we should be in a state of emergency. Since Katrina, our resources should have been directed to the Basic Police Service, staffing the platoons with adequate manpower, vehicles and supervision, This has not been done.
Our leadership has become strictly data driven, spending time, manpower, and money on computer programs that are just a more modern version of basic police tools that we have already, creating new command positions, re-adjusting district borders and sectors when we already have zones, creating additional redundant administrative duties for Field Supervisors, and creating new or additional administrative positions, while ignoring, and taking resources away from the basic police service that we really need. Money needs to be directed to basic resources; broken computers, printers, copiers, cars, etc., rather than on the implementation of costly new programs and positions. The overdue promotions of the rank and file officers should be considered before new positions are funded. Our current rank structure should be re-organized so that more supervisors are providing the bottom line service of protecting the Citizens rather than administrative and data driven tasks.

Many of the modern versions of policing that are being put in place could be effective if we had the resources available. But when problems are encountered in the implementation of these programs, our leaders take punitive action against the rank and file; excessive monitoring of sick leave, texting when calls are holding too long, punitive transfers when proactive stats are not at a level that they believe is acceptable, which is illegal, micro-managing every minute of a platoon officers time, instead of fixing the root problem of inadequate staffing and resources for the platoons.

Some of the changes implemented are detrimental to Policing the community:
Arrests: Not arresting persons who have arrest warrants on file; if we can’t afford to house them, then the Sheriff and the Court system should address their release, not the police, If a judge found cause to issue an order to arrest a subject, the police should be obligated to affect that arrest and remove that person from the community.

Issuing summons; This should be left to the discretion of the Officer and his supervisors in the field. Issuing a summons for criminal activity usually does not discourage further criminal activity. This goes against the ‘Broken Windows’ theory of handling minor incidents before they become major incidents. The shoplifter graduates to armed robbery, the trespasser graduates to theft or burglary, those disturbing the peace return to retaliate with violence. First we issue a summons for the initial criminal act and the perpetrator is released into the community where he committed the act. Then, when he doesn’t go to court, a warrant is issued. By Issuing still ANOTHER summons for missing court, the Offender remains in the community where he is committing these criminal acts. Where is the incentive for him to stop criminal behavior? Is this community policing? Fugitives from other jurisdictions are located by Officers, a report is written and then they are released. If they are wanted for committing crimes in another community why should we allow them to remain in our community? If they commit another crime after they are ‘caught and released’ who is at fault? The Criminal? The Officer who released him? Or, the Command staff that initiated the ‘catch and release policy’? Does it matter to his next victim?

Of the estimated manpower of 1300 Officers, the platoons who provide the basic police service, the uniformed officers in your neighborhood who answer your calls, are about 300 to 400. These men and women, with some exceptions, are forced to work in one Officer units. This is dangerous for the Officers as well as for the Citizens who depend on us. We should have a higher percentage of our Officers on the platoons with a mix of one Officer and two Officer units, as well as field Supervisors who are actually in the field instead of tied up with administrative chores. If we can assign 700 Officers to work special events, why can’t we assign 700 Officers to patrol neighborhoods and respond to Citizens calls on a regular basis?
For special events, the platoon Officers are sent to work the event while Task Force Officers and others, who don’t normally do platoon work, are left to man the platoons. This is ineffective. District Task Force units should be dismantled, with the Officers, vehicles and Task Force Supervisors being re-assigned to the platoons. Then when officers are sent to work special events, the ones left in the district will be familiar with platoon work and be more effective. How about combining the Crime Abatement Team and other special units with the Special Operations Division and utilize them as a city wide task force? District Task Force units can be manned when there is enough new Officers hired.

Many of the concerns of the rank and file Officers of N.O.P.D. have been documented in the Department of Justice report that highlights many of the problems of the N.O.P.D.. We are frustrated that when we expressed these concerns to our leadership, they had been ignored until the Department of Justice came to point them out. If only our Leadership had listened to the rank and file earlier, we may not have needed Federal intervention. We need a regular outlet to communicate with the Citizens, one where we can express concerns to you without the fear of retaliation from Command Staff.

We feel the need to reach out to you, the Citizens because we have no voice within our Department. Some have suggested a Strike or ‘Blue Flu’ protest, but we are here to serve You, the Citizens, and we realize these options would not be beneficial to you. Some have suggested a protest on our off time at City Hall or Police Headquarters, but we fear punitive action from our administration. Although we have no Labor Union, we are grateful that we have a Police Association that is willing to speak for the Officers. But the Administration has no obligation to respond to our concerns. But they are obligated to respond to YOU.
We understand that we all have to work together with the community to solve our crime problems. We can’t do it alone. We know that the concerns of the Men and Women of the N.O.P.D. are not the only issues to be considered, but since our Leadership is not responding to repeated pleas to resolve these issues, even under a threat of possible punitive retaliation, we feel that you, the Citizens of New Orleans, have a right to know our concerns and their effect on our ability to serve you. Maybe you can have influence on our leadership. Despite these conditions we, your Police Officers, are concerned for your safety and continue our service to you.

Members of your NOPD

Mike Glasser, PANO President
(504) 319-8400
Police Association of New Orleans
3443 Esplanade Avenue #108
New Orleans, Louisiana 70119

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