By Chris Butler | Louisiana Watchdog
NEW ORLEANS — Violent crime is up 24 percent in New Orleans, and now Mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling on Louisiana taxpayers to send in more state troopers to patrol his city, essentially diverting important resources from other areas of the state.
One might wonder why Landrieu, a Democrat, doesn’t use his own local police force instead. The adversarial relationship between the mayor and the New Orleans police union could play a large part.
Eric Hessler, an attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, compares it to the relationship between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department.
The Police Association of New Orleans represents 500 NOPD officers, Hessler said.
“For the Sugar Bowl, civilian groups had to put up signs warning tourists to walk in groups,” Hessler told Louisiana Watchdog. “The signs said ‘We love our NOPD, but we just don’t have enough of them.’ There are dozens of these signs in the French Quarter.”
Even though the economy is still bad and people are out of work, Hessler said only 55 people applied to fill 150 empty police positions in 2014.
About 120 officers left the NOPD at the same time, he added.
Potential recruits are either migrating to other cities or taking up jobs as, ironically enough, Louisiana State Troopers.
In addition to calling upon those troopers to fix things, Hessler said Landrieu has invested $2.5 million so unarmed civilians may patrol the French Quarter.
“It certainly was not a wise expenditure of money,” Hessler said. “What is an unarmed security patrol going to do to stem violent crime? Nothing.”
Meanwhile, at least one poster on a Facebook page devoted to reducing the French Quarter’s high crime rate said former Mayor Ray Nagin, now a federal convict, did a better job managing crime. That’s an opinion Hessler said he and many police officers share.
Members of Landrieu’s office didn’t immediately respond to Louisiana Watchdog’s emailed questions on the matter Tuesday.
Representatives from the Louisiana State Troopers also didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
In a statement, a spokesman for Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said the governor hasn’t yet decided whether to abide by Landrieu’s request.
“We will make a determination for supplemental support based on the recommendations of the Colonel of the Louisiana State Police and if he decides it is necessary, sustainable to the department, and does not detract from the important work LSP does in other parts of the state,” said Mike Reed.
“We also encourage the mayor to produce a plan that puts the city and NOPD in charge.”
Hessler, meanwhile, said members of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department, possible substitutes, aren’t trained for street patrols as NOPD officers are.
“The mayor even considered that at one point,” Hessler said. “Unfortunately, he has considered everything except actually investing in the police department.
Contact Christopher Butler at [email protected]
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