Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ask the Obvious Questions

There must be a memo going around Howard Avenue directing reporters to avoid all mention of the distinction between police officers and civilian employees of the NOPD. At any rate, Brendan McCarthy seems unaware of the difference:
The NOPD has struggled with retention since the hurricane. The department has more than 1,400 employees, down more than 200 from its pre-Katrina level. About 900 of those employees are officers working on the streets.

In Atlanta, the department has more than 1,700 employees and is looking for more.

I'm not trying to pick on a T/P reporter, it wasn't an important point in a story about the Atlanta PD recruiting in New Orleans. I'm happy to see that the Picayune finally acknowledges the difference between the number of police officers and the number assigned to patrol duty, but it brings up the incredibly obvious question of how many officers the NOPD had assigned to patrol duty prior to Katrina.

Two months ago the paper reported that the city had gone from 1668 police officers pre-Katrina to 1401, according to the rules of post-Katrina reporting, the Nagin administration is allowed to round 267 to 200. Since the 1401 figure included recruits and some attrition probably occurred in the intervening two months, the difference is probably greater. At any rate, the question the Picayune inexplicably refuses to address is how 900 officers assigned to patrol duty now compares to the number pre-Katrina. If the difference is greater than the difference in the total of number of police officers, it leads to obvious questions about the impact of laying off close to 300 civilian employees. As I've said before, it may be that there are no more officers than usual assigned desk duty. However, if there are, replacing civilian employees would simply be a matter of finding the money.

I don't think a lack of police manpower is the main cause of the city's current crime problems, but the questions are still worth asking. I started to comment at Adrastos' the other day that Oliver and Arnie would be probably be very good councilmen-at-large under normal circumstances, but because of the city's problems and the mayor's irresponsibility, they both need to get over their reluctance to make waves. I also agree with the commenter at Dambala's who thinks that it will be too late if we wait for the feds to stop Nagin from bankrupting the city. An obvious first step would be for the city council and press to realize that the city has serious enough budget problems to merit a close look at all questionable spending, not just that which involves allegations of wrongdoing.

Addition: Rereading the article about the Atlanta police recruiting in New Orleans, I once had to scratch my head at the mayor's reputation for wit and charm. It seems to me that he's always at his stupidest and most assholic when he thinks he's being clever:
With a grin and tongue firmly planted in cheek, Nagin did not pause in offering a message to Pennington.

"We are thinking about organizing a trip to Atlanta and see if we can recruit some police, some fire, EMS workers. You know, we might even go after a couple sewage and water board employees over there."

Assholic. I like it.
Thank you, but I thought that was a common usage.
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