Friday, March 11, 2005

Your Trusty Compass…

Michael Perlstein in T-P reports that New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass “dropped a bombshell” by advocating a temporary suspension of the long-standing rule that compels officers to live within the city limits.

Compass, who has remained largely neutral on the issue during his three years as chief, said he is convinced the time has come to wade into the choppy political waters of residency as "a matter of public safety."

"I've done everything possible as police chief to recruit from within the city, from outside the city, outside the state, on college campuses, on military bases, from other police departments," Compass said. "I've tried to recruit from within by going to churches and community organizations. And you know what? We just don't have the numbers. We just don't have a large enough pool of applicants to keep up with attrition."

Compass said that over the past four years, the department has remained at a standstill, employing about 1,685 officers, despite largely failed measures that included $5,000 signing bonuses, a recruiting blitz of Louisiana colleges and an attempted raid of the Cleveland Police Department. The NOPD's budgeted troop strength stands at 1,885 officers.

Compass said he favors a two- or three-year suspension of the law as a test of how such a move will boost the recruiting pool. He said any suspension would be aimed at luring veteran officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies. For existing officers, Compass said, he would push to lift the ban on promotions of those who live outside the city.

While Compass' announcement heated up the political grapevine, the chief said he will leave lobbying to politicians. A majority vote of the City Council is required to repeal the rule, which was placed on the books in the early 1970s but wasn't actively enforced until 1995, when former Mayor Marc Morial made it a cornerstone issue. In its current form, new recruits must live in the city, while veteran officers cannot be promoted unless they prove they maintain a New Orleans residence.

"I can't go by a consensus one way or the other on this," Compass said. "I'm a police officer and I'm out there on the streets and I can tell you we need an influx of officers and we need them quickly. For me, it's a matter of public safety."


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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