Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Drew Brees of policing

I had forgotten that Mitch Landrieu introduced Chief Serpas to New Orleans as that.
“Now we have the Drew Brees of police chiefs. We didn't get the best police chief in New Orleans. We got the best police chief in the country,” Landrieu said.
I was only reminded of that cartoon by this statement from PANO President Mike Glasser  issued via Facebook this afternoon. (Aside: Organizations really need to stop using Facebook posts as their primary communications platform. It's lazy and also limiting.  Share your stuff there, sure. But put it on your own website, please.)

I can't agree with everything Glasser says here.  I think the consent decree reform is necessary and I think the Mayor is right to look for ways the city can avoid having local taxpayers shoulder its entire cost wherever possible.  But Glasser makes some points that are worth taking seriously. Particularly this.
Four years ago, the Mayor stood at Gallier Hall and announced the appointment of the “Drew Brees of Policing” as our Superintendent. The Superintendent then put forth and imposed strategies and plans and realignment of resources, picking the “best and brightest” to lead and ignoring the Civil Service safeguards which included competitive testing and vetting. As a result, two years ago the Police Association of New Orleans informed the sitting City Council that these strategies and plans were counterproductive, that crime was rising. Further, these strategies were creating a morale issue which was driving an unrelenting and catastrophic attrition. We implored the City Council to step in. They did not. The Mayor claimed it was a handful of disgruntled officers and not the opinion of the general rank and file of the NOPD. A legitimate survey by Tulane University staff proved that to be wrong, but the Mayor remained in denial. And here we are, two years later, and regrettably as predicted, 500 officers short, and losing one officer every 60 hours. They had four years to reform the NOPD and it's been reformed..... into a faltering organization that the Mayor concedes can no longer effectively police its own city.
This is essentially about the Landrieu-Serpas approach to management. It prefers Great Leaders and "efficient" (more with less) systems rather than supporting line employees who do the actual work.  It's a good sell for a politician or a professional administrator.  From their points of view, everything is about them.  Let's go on TV and introduce our Drew Brees guy. He'll get in there and kick some butts.  Respecting people and giving them what they need to do a better job, though, is harder and less sexy.

1 comment:

Owen Courrèges said...

I'm still questioning the "500 officers short" trope. Why do we need roughly 1,600 officers? That's the size of the Austin PD, and Austin has twice our population. PANO and Serpas alike need to make the argument here. I keep hearing them act like it's simply obvious that we need such a massive police force, which the numbers don't bear that out.

That said, I do understand that the rate of attrition needs to be slowed, and I think a lot of Landrieu's reforms have needlessly pissed off the rank-and-file, but we need to quash this notion that we need an army of cops to meet basic policing needs. I really think the city should be able to get by with about 1,100-1,200 officers if they're properly utilized.