NEW ORLEANS, LA – In the city that has recently been dubbed the “murder capital of the United States,” law enforcement staffing is so low, and crime is so high that the New Orleans Police Department will now be hiring civilian employees for some tasks within the agency, including detective work.

Due to such a severe staffing shortage under the rising crime levels, NOPD has lowered the standards for officers and even asked some who were previously turned away to try again sooner than they otherwise would have been allowed. This includes relaxing requirements and standards set in relation to credit scores and previous marijuana use.

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Last Tuesday, NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson announced that police officers would no longer be required nor respond to forgery calls, medical calls, certain theft cases, lost animals and auto accidents on private property, and other similar types of calls.

“My message to you, Ferguson said, “to those of you who may have been disqualified in the past [as police officers], I’m urging you to resubmit your application because some of our hiring criteria have changed.”

According to the Daily Mail, some of those applying as civilians to detective positions have no previous police or other related experience. They’re also being hired for administrative positions as well as to take some lower-priority service calls. Of course, Ferguson assured the public that civilians will have to go through training and background checks. While most will be solely taking reports over the phone, some will also have to respond into the field to collect evidence, etc.

“As we take calls over the phone, there may be some evidence that needs to be collected with that call,” Ferguson said. “We’ll have civilian investigators to go out and collect that evidence instead of an officer having to go out there and collect that evidence.”

After losing around 150 officers in the last year, the response time for an officer to respond to a call has increased to about 11 minutes. The intent of the civilian hires is to free up some time for officers, allowing them to respond to more serious, violent, and/or in-progress calls.

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“If we’re having that visibility [of officers back on the streets],” Ferguson said, “we’re hoping we’re able to deter further crime from occurring, and that would be less that our investigators have to follow. But it’s a balance.”

Former New York Police Department Patrol Chief Fausto Picardo was brought into New Orleans to consult with the agency as a “consulting Chief of Operations” to attempt to find better ways to manage call load, staffing, and crime. Picardo is the recommending agent of this civilian hiring, along with many other changes.

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He was brought on at the end of August and has already issued a report with many ways to bring about positive changes. In his report, Picardo said, “Action must be taken now if there is ever a chance to save the city and bring the reputation of being a city where tourists can come to party and celebrate and not become victims.”

Other changes recommended by Picardo, including take-home patrol vehicles for deputies, mortgage assistance, and student loan forgiveness, have also been presented, which total around $80 million.

This piece was written by Leah Anaya on September 26, 2022. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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