Some New Orleans city agencies may take a budget hit to pay for increases in the police department. Mayor Ray Nagin wants to hire hundreds of new police officers and beef up the New Orleans Police Department’s budget by millions of dollars each year, while other departments have been asked to propose cuts of 10 or 20 percent.
Administration officials have warned that the city faces a possible budget shortfall of $20 million to $30 million this year. It is likely to spend at least $5 million more than budgeted to pay for city prisoners housed in Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti’s jails.
Nagin wants to expand the New Orleans Police Department which now has about 1,625 officers, to 2000 by 2005. A previous goal of 1,735 officers had proved unattainable because of attrition and an inability to attract qualified recruits.
In the face of rising crime figures — especially a jump in murders from 111 during the first six months of 2002 to 146 during the first six months of this year — the administration decided to reverse course. In announcing a seven-point plan to fight crime, Nagin said he wants to boost starting officers’ pay by about $2,000 per year. Recruits now are paid about $29,000, including a 12.5 percent raise that took effect this year. The changes are likely to increase the NOPD’s annual budget, already by far the largest in city government, by about $20 million by 2005.