‘They fear no consequences.’ NOPD chief, JPSO sheriff talk about crime spike, recruitment efforts
By Michelle Hunter
Source: The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
May 12, 2022
Recruiting and keeping police officers remains a huge challenge for area law enforcement agencies, and will continue to be a problem until the perception of the job changes, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto and New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said during a wide-ranging talk Thursday morning organized by the Bureau of Governmental Research.
While the most people attending the morning’s session likely support law enforcement, Lopinto said, only a humbling few would likely encourage their son or daughter to enter the profession. The perception of the job needs to change, Lopinto said.
The Sheriff’s Office’s got a boost when voters recently passed a new millage that will generate $28 million to cover employee pay raises, which Lopinto championed as a way to better compete for talent.
“His millage,” Ferguson said, jokingly nodding towards Lopinto, “is keeping me up at night, now.”
All of the law enforcement agencies in the New Orleans area draw from the same pool, Ferguson said. Last year, the NOPD lost 150 officers to other agencies or who left the profession.
“I’m a big advocate of recruiting locally,” Ferguson said. “When you recruit locally, you have those individuals that have vested interest in our community and, they’re going to stay here and stay committed to ensuring the safety of their community.”
The event was part of an ongoing series of conversations about public safety organized by the BGR. Thursday’s chat was moderated by former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and touched on a wide range of topics ranging from body-worn cameras to interstate highway shootings.
Letten asked the pair what was driving the recent surge in violent crime. Ferguson blamed the fragmented criminal justice system which had been stymied by lengthy pandemic court closures. He said it created a criminal element that had no sense of accountability.
“They fear no consequences,” Ferguson said.
Despite a slight increase in homicides by the end of March when compared to the first three months of 2021, Lopinto said Jefferson Parish has still enjoyed record-low overall crime rates.
Crime spikes can often be attributed to one person or a small group, Lopinto said, citing the March arrest of an 18-year-old from Metairie who was booked with 11 carjackings that were reported over a three-month period.
“When you take them out of the game, the stats catch back up,” he said.
Body-worn cameras made a December debut in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Lopinto said the department is still working to install dash and back-seat cameras into 277 patrol units.
The dash cameras also work as automated license-plate recognition cameras and will add to the 200 stationary cameras the Sheriff’s Office has deployed across the parish.
“That’s going to be a game-changer for us,” Lopinto said.
Cameras a plus
While some NOPD officers may have been less than enthused when the department introduced body cameras in 2014, Ferguson said the devices have actually turned out to be a plus, allowing authorities to disprove false allegations made against officers.
“We’re able to speak for ourselves and not let someone else speak from a cell phone as to what they think they saw,” Ferguson said.
New Orleans police have increased the number of crime cameras on the city’s highways and stepped up its presence there after a spate of interstate shootings that have left many residents concerned.
Ferguson said the interstate shootings are not connected and not the work of a single person or group.
“They’re not random shootings,” Ferguson said. “They’re (the shooters) are targeting someone in particular when they’re committing these acts.”
To watch the entire BGR Breakfast Briefing, visit https://www.bgr.org/a-view-from-the-top-insights-on-law-enforcement-in-orleans-and-jefferson/
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