As the New Orleans Police Department battles a steady tide of crime in a repopulating city, its leaders must deal with a diminished force, hampered by attrition after Hurricane Katrina, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The force of 1,668 before the flood now employs 1,425 officers. Of those, 109 are on sick leave, and 150 more have put in applications at other departments that have contacted New Orleans for references.
Although Gov. Kathleen Blanco wants the department to wean itself off the extra help provided by State Police and the National Guard, the New Orleans police have only just begun to reactivate the recruiting and training apparatus. “You can’t just turn on a spigot and get new police officers,” said Robert Stellingworth, president of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, which helps the department with recruitment. Yesterday, Blanco urged New Orleans police to get back up to strength, noting that the loan of 60 State Police troopers has been a burden on state law enforcement. The troopers have been helping patrol in the French Quarter and central business district since June, while monthly rotations of 300 soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard have been assigned duties in flooded areas that have fewer residents.