In The News › Serpas allowed to hand-pick top NOPD commanders

Mar 1, 2011

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Serpas allowed to hand-pick top NOPD commanders

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
By Katie Moore, Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas wanted to create the new rank of “Colonel” within the department to give him more flexibility in hiring and firing his top commanders.

But after weeks of negotiating with the civil service board and police unions, the Civil Service Commission chose another option.

The commission gave Serpas the ability to unilaterally promote and demote 16 top commanders by approving special rates of pay for the positions.

“This is about flexibility. It’s not about titles and names. I’m very satisfied that we will now have the flexibility to appoint the senior-most leaders in the police department,” Serpas said.

All of the division commanders will make just under $70,000 a year. Until now, Serpas could only choose commanders from the existing pool of 32 police captains. The Civil Service Commission opened up the pool of potential leaders, allowing Serpas to choose from lieutenants as well.

It’s a move that the police unions oppose.

“If you have one of the two majors that’s not selected and you have a lieutenant that is, does that lieutenant now outrank that major if they find themselves on the scene?” asked Fraternal Order of Police President Jim Gallagher before the vote.

“We would make it clear inside the police department that divisional commanders would be the third-ranked people within the police department,” Serpas said.

“The idea of having flexibility in who you choose, in terms of being able to pick from more than one civil service rank, is something that we think is important,” said Janet Howard, president of watchdog group, the Bureau of Governmental Research.

But Howard also said the way that the change was made Tuesday won’t have much of an impact on long-term, permanent civil service reform.

“The civil service system is something that’s really necessary, but it’s basically broken,” she said.

Civil service was designed to make sure the election of new mayors didn’t mean city employees all lost their jobs, according to Howard, and to make sure promotions were given based on written tests and years of service, step-by-step.

However, Howard said civil service has become “a lifetime guarantee to a job no matter how you perform and that is not what it is intended to do.”

She said Tuesday’s vote for the NOPD is a step in the right direction for the department, even though it may not sit well with the rank and file officers.

“I find it hard to justify that expenditure given what’s happened to the rank and file officers since the middle of last year,” Gallagher said in opposition to the move.
Serpas said he will work with civil service to begin making the top appointments “soon.”

Mar 1, 2011

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

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