There are not enough New Orleans police officers responding to emergencies, leading to long wait times for citizens who call 911, the city’s inspector general said in a study reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Emergency calls wait in a backlog until a police officer is available, part of a growing problem for a city that has seen its police force shrink 25 percent in the last four years. Residents in eastern New Orleans waited the longest for police to be dispatched in 2012, with average wait times clocking in at seven minutes for the highest priority calls and at 57 minutes for all other emergency calls, nearly double that of Uptown neighborhoods. Those times do not include any delays at the hands of 911 call takers or account for the time it actually takes for a cop to arrive on scene.
Auditors found that some districts could experience severe understaffing when officers call in sick or take days off. The report recommended the department add 61 to 264 officers to street patrols. The report used a “workload-based” approach to determine the needs of the department, rather than a per-capita basis, which auditors said can be misleading. New Orleans had 3.2 police officers per 1,000 citizens in 2012 – more than the 2.8 per 1,000 the department had in 1990. In 2007, only Washington D.C. had more officers per capita, at 6.7 officers per 1,000 citizens, compared to New Orleans’ 6.5, a heightened ratio due to the steep drop in the city’s population after Hurricane Katrina.