911, NOPD staffing issues are focus of committee meeting - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

911, NOPD staffing issues are focus of committee meeting

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - An Uptown man says he called 911 after witnessing an attempted rape, but hours later, police still hadn't shown up. At a meeting Wednesday at City Hall, NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas addressed what he says is the reason people are waiting longer for help.

The man, whom we're choosing not to identify, explains, "There was a man on top of a woman with her dress pulled over her head attempting to rape her."

The resident says after hearing a blood-curdling scream March 14, he ran out of his home to find a woman being attacked. He says he scared off the perpetrator and called 911.

"The NOPD said they would send somebody around, and we waited and waited," he said. "We actually called back, but over three hours, nobody came."

At Wednesday's Criminal Justice Committee hearing, council members learned that residents aren't just having trouble getting officers to show up, some can't even get in touch with emergency operators.

"Two weeks ago there was a young man accosted at his home trying to evict some people from a party. He got shot, and when they called 911, they got a recording," said Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

"The staffing is a result of the budget we've been authorized to use," said Chief Serpas. "That has been the issue for three years that we're finally coming out of as a city." 

With proper funding, the 911 call center is finally able to hire new staff members. There are currently 37 working, and there is enough money to pay for 55 total.

There's also more money in the budget to hire new officers. Right now, there are 1,166 sworn officers. In 2010 there were 1,600. The department continues to lose people. In fact, 28 high-ranking officers left in 2012, 21 left in 2013, and this year may be even worse.

"If we're on track, this year it'll be 66," said Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

"These are the people who have been here the longest and who have pension opportunities for them to make their decision on," Serpas said. "I congratulate everyone who has given their career to this city and this department, and they're gonna leave one way or the other."

Recruitment programs are in full swing to get new people in the door, but Serpas admits there are obstacles.

"One of the distractions is domicile, there's no question about it, you can't get around the bush," he said, talking about the residency requirement. "It's a distraction for laterals, it's a distraction for original hires. Education could be a distraction. We've just got to figure out what distractions we can remove from the process to make the recruitment as efficient as possible."

In the meantime, residents like the crime witness we spoke to Uptown say they're fed up.

"It does make me angry that our tax dollars are being paid for supposedly services like this, and we're not getting anything in return," the man said.

The man said after waiting three hours with the victim, whom he didn't know, he ended up driving her to the NOPD's Second District station on Magazine Street.

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