The New Orleans City Council and the Landrieu administration are right in trying to get New Orleans Police Department reforms in place to meet the criticisms that have dogged the force for years. After a testy debate, the 5-2 vote on a new system for extra-duty details is a step forward.
Problems plaguing NOPD are greater than the issue of managing details, but the U.S. Justice Department found it a problem, and a landmark consent decree with the feds required overhaul of the extra-duty system.
The investigators for the U.S. government rightly pointed out that there are multiple problems with the proliferation of details. Police work can be a weird mix of watching and waiting, and intense split-second decisionmaking; an officer tired from working double shifts puts himself and his colleagues at risk.
The Justice Department also found concern that officers would look the other way if important customers broke the law. Not to mention the informal power structure within the department, with cliques controlling who got to work details.
The flashpoint at the council were union-backed amendments that quite likely would have been difficult for the Justice Department, and the judge who approved the consent decree, to accept. We think the council majority was right to reject the amendments and move on the changes.
Is there a guarantee that everyone is going to be happy? No.
What we hope to see from this is a solution to the chicken-and-egg problem of police compensation: Taxpayers won’t raise taxes for a troubled department. Raising credibility has to come first.
Whatever its shortcomings that might have to be adjusted in future, the grandly named Office of Police Secondary Employment is one way to build credibility for the department that we hope will ultimately pay off in terms of more public support.