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An NOPD, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office merger? Lawmakers to consider it

By Richard Rainey | The Times-Picayune

April 2, 2015

New Orleans’ fractured criminal justice system has apparently prompted one state lawmaker to look across the 17th Street Canal for a little guidance.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, filed a pair of bills Thursday (April 2) that would start talk of merging the struggling New Orleans police department with the embattled domain of Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

Morrell also wants lawmakers to consider making the New Orleans police chief an elected position and establishing an oversight board to better coordinate all law enforcement agencies in the city.
Sans the oversight board, the proposal looks similar to the setup of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“Public safety remains this administration’s top priority, and we are always interested in starting conversations that could result in more efficient and effective local government,” said Brad Howard, press secretary for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “However, as this legislation was introduced today, we are just beginning to carefully review and study the proposal.”

Morrell couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday. Below are details on the two bills he filed.

Senate Bill 164

This bill proposes a commission to examine the ramifications of squeezing the NOPD and the Sheriff’s Office under one roof. The 13-member panel would be tasked with taking a wide-ranging examination of the state of law enforcement in the city, considering both agencies are under sweeping federal mandates to reform.

The commission would produce feasibility studies of what the budget of a merged agency would look like and where financing should come from. It would also look for the best way to finance the agencies should they remain separate.

It would examine how many officers and administrators would be needed to run a combined operation and identify any places where redundant positions can be eliminated.

The panel would consist of state lawmakers, the sheriff, the mayor, the NOPD superintendent, the chairperson of the City Council’s criminal justice committee, the New Orleans inspector general and leaders of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, the Public Affairs Research Council, the Bureau of Governmental Research and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

The committee would have to produce a report no later than March 1, 2017.

State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, and Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, have signed on as co-sponsors.

Senate Bill 149

This would establish a commission tasked with coordinating and managing cooperation between all of New Orleans law enforcement agencies, neighborhood improvement associations and security districts.
Its board would consist of seven voting members: the mayor, the sheriff, the chairperson of the City Council’s criminal justice committee, the constables of First and Second City courts, the chairperson of the House Committee on the Judiciary and the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Judiciary B.

Also included would be non-voting members representing the police departments of universities and colleges in New Orleans, the chief of the Harbor Police and the captain of the Orleans Levee District Police Department.

The first meeting would be scheduled before Dec. 1.

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