NOPD Officer quits, says patrols not safe

NOPD Officer quits, says patrols not safe
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 6:46pm

A New Orleans police officer tells WDSU that he quit the force because the department was placing officers at unnecessary risk by a new crime-fighting strategy.

The former officer said he went from having a partner to patrolling solo, and that the new strategy of one-officer patrols puts them at risk.

The debate is in the hands of an administrative judge who will decide whether the safety concerns are a good cause for quitting and receiving benefits.

While the one-officer patrols aren’t new for the New Orleans Police Department, Michael Glasser with the Police Association of New Orleans said he doesn’t think it’s a viable strategy in a city with a murder rate 10 times the national average.

“We have a much more dangerous element, and I think it's gotten out of control. And I think the answer is not to put officers in a position to have to encounter multiple individuals who are clearly armed and capable of creating a lot of violent crime,” Glasser said.

The mandate, put in place by New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas to promote visibility, primarily affects task force and tactical units who have historically been partnered up.

The officers are asked to be pro-active and go into the most dangerous of situations to make arrests, but Henry Dean with the Fraternal Order of Police said he doesn’t see any additional risks with the one-officer units.

“These officers are there. They are chosen to be in that unit because they have shown they have that degree of responsibility necessary,” Dean said.

The changes prompted a veteran of the task force to quit. He said he filed for unemployment benefits and an administrative law judge ruled in his favor, citing good cause and working conditions that changed “in an effort to increase the visibility of the police department in the community, but the change also created a less safe work environment for the individual officers.”

Dean said he believes visibility is a deterrent for crime and officers need to use their heads.

“If you're a little bit afraid, it keeps you on your toes,” Dean said. “If you do have a situation that requires backup, wait for your backup to come in.”

However, Glasser rebuts the statement, saying “waiting for backup” can be a problem with the NOPD suffering from a shortage of manpower.

“Your backup may be two minutes away, but that may be two minutes too late,” Glasser said. “And in a department where (we are) understaffed and going to continue to be understaffed, I think it's only a problem that will get worse and not better.”

The NOPD declined to comment, saying “We cannot comment on the specifics of this case because it’s currently being appealed. However, the ‘One Officer Patrol’ concept is an accepted practice that’s been in place for decades in the NOPD as well as many other police departments nationwide.”

There are currently 1,353 NOPD officers on the streets. About 30 new recruits will start a class early next year.

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