Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry has said the New Orleans Police Department was in "shambles," mainly because it has operated under a federal consent decree since 2012.

Certainly, NOPD is understaffed. Its 900 officers may be enough for some cities the size of New Orleans, but those cities don't have New Orleans' caché — or 17 to 19 million visitors annually.

We need more officers.

Shambles is one way to describe NOPD's efforts in the Crescent City. Another is ... success.

NO.LSP.adv.jpg

Louisiana Governor-Elect Jeff Landry announced the appointment of Robert P. Hodges as the 27th Louisiana State Police Superintendent during a press conference in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. Major Hodges is a 28-year veteran with Louisiana State Police. He began his career in 1995 as a Patrol Trooper in Troop B (Kenner). Major Hodges, a native of New Orleans, graduated from Brother Martin High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Louisiana State University. (Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune)

In 2022, New Orleans had a particularly violent year. In 2023, there was a 25% drop in slayings. The first quarter of this year looks good, too.

Compared to the same time period last year, murders decreased by 31% as of April 6 — from 61 homicides to 42. Nonfatal shootings also decreased, from 160 to 92. Ditto for armed robberies, from 162 to 78 — a 52% decline.

Not all NOPD data show decreases. But, overall, NOPD's crime-fighting strategy — working with the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, the judiciary and other partners — has worked.

So why do we need Troop NOLA?

Amid talk of the state taking over New Orleans, many folks continue to wonder what's really going on. We all need more information.

Landry's Communications Director Kate Kelly said in a statement Thursday night that Troop NOLA has already increased its presence in New Orleans. Troopers have been required to take U.S. Department of Justice Color of Law training and de-escalation training "to ensure that our interactions with the public are professional, fair, and unbiased."

Full Troop NOLA statement from Gov. Landry Communications Director Kate Kelly

Provided April 18, 2024

I'm pretty sure some members of Troop NOLA will live in New Orleans, become part of the community, feel what we feel and see what we see when they're off duty.

I also know that operational and staffing plans have not been finalized.

And I know that we should know more.

We've been here before. Remember Troop N?

That State Police unit was established in 2015 to reinforce NOPD efforts in the French Quarter. Local business leaders coughed up the money to underwrite the additional help. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Chief Michael Harrison welcomed the troopers, who arrived with a defined mission and an understanding that they would work in tandem with city police. They did, until 2020.

New Orleanians knew what the troopers were doing back then.

Not this time.

Harrison led NOPD when Troop N arrived. He worked with Louisiana State Police brass, received and reviewed Troop N's data, and could point to results.

The former NOPD chief now consults with the District Attorney's office as a liaison to law enforcement agencies, including NOPD, but Harrison says he has no idea what Troop NOLA plans to do here — even though he meets and talks with law enforcement officials regularly.

That's disturbing.

Harrison reminded me that NOPD's force had declined from 1,500 to 1,200 during his tenure as chief. He appreciated having some 30 state troopers to supplement NOPD. He fit them into the department's overall crime-fighting strategy.

In early March of this year, Landry approved a $19 million appropriation to fund Troop NOLA. That's great news — but what, exactly, are New Orleanians getting?

Troop NOLA is expected to have a citywide impact with a focus on the French Quarter, interstate highways and crime hot spots. Since plans are still being developed, I have some suggestions.

Consider focusing on quality-of-life issues, such as checking for licenses and permits to operate storefront and street businesses in the Quarter. We don't need unlicensed live animals, "shot girls" and other hustlers bilking visitors and taking business away from legit operators.

Consider focusing on the three-wheeler and four-wheeler knuckleheads who dart up and down Canal Street, in parts of Gentilly, Uptown and on I-10 corridors heading into New Orleans East.

Consider a smart, specific, 24/7 French Quarter crime avoidance plan. Law-abiding folks like me probably won't mind. I won't be carrying anything illegal, and I won't hide things I don't want officers to see.?

Consider telling us how Troop NOLA will operate with a federal consent decree. They're required to avoid high-speed chases, but how will they pay deference to the decree?

I don't expect the NOPD and Troop NOLA to reveal strategies that would help criminals avoid arrest, but folks do want them to have a plan to further reduce crime — and increase accountability.

Landry has had enough time to give us at least some details.

Harrison said whatever Troop NOLA does should be supported by reliable data. That might show an even greater crime-fighting impact. "The city and the Police Department should know what they're doing in real-time," he said.

Perception often becomes reality. Will Troop NOLA be a state takeover — or a laser-focused, transparent, crime-fighting partner to NOPD?

Email Will Sutton at wsutton@theadvocate.com, or follow him on Twitter, @willsutton.

Tags