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New Orleans Illustrates Police Department Shrinkage Since 2020

During the George Floyd protests of 2020, many people called for the defunding of traditional police. That didn't happen, for the most part. Almost three years later, some police departments are shrinking anyway. A new study of 14 large police departments found most have had an "excess" loss of sworn, full-time officers since 2020, a trend verified in core-city agencies such as the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), NPR reports. In 2010, NOPD had about 1,500 officers; a decade later, it was at about 1,200. Since 2020, the department is down by another 20% to 944. Despite doubled recruiting efforts, the department continues to shrink. "We're looking at a situation where the department this year has already lost almost 20 officers," says Jeff Asher, a public safety consultant who tracks the city's police staffing for the New Orleans City Council. "It really impacts everything. You're seeing response times that have gone from an average of about 50 minutes for any type of call in 2019 to over two and a half hours last year. And, so far, a little bit worse this year."

Lifelong residents of New Orleans say they see the difference. "I am off the street every day by 4 p.m.," says Delores Montgomery, a ride-share driver. She was shaken by the recent killing of another ride-share driver, as well as her own experience last year, seeing a couple running after their car was stolen at a gas station in broad daylight. "It's just one thing after another and you just sit there with your mouth open," she says. "Criminals know there's not enough officers on the street! They know this!" New Orleans, which used to be ranked among the deadliest cities in the 1990s and late 2000s, likely reclaimed the dubious distinction of the worst per capita murder rate among cities with more than 250,000 residents last year. Rank-and-file officers say they're less able to be a presence in crime hotspots, because of the personnel shortage. "We're dealing with a 1,600-officer police department being operated by 900 officers," says Capt. Mike Glasser, a police department veteran who headsthe Police Association of New Orleans (PANO). Glasser blames the dwindling staff on officer mistrust of leadership, as well as stair-step financial incentives that can cause officers to retire early. There's also been intense pressure from other departments, who recruit NOPD away to quieter jobs in the suburbs.


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