Eliminating NOPD applicant college credit requirement will result in stronger police force

Emily Carmichael, Associate View Editor

The following is an opinion piece, and does not reflect the views of the Tulane Hullabaloo

The Civil Service Commission voted on Feb. 9 to reduce the level of education required to join the New Orleans Police Department per the request of Superintendent Michael Harrison. Under the new policy, aspiring officers are required to have graduated from high school and do not need to have completed 60 hours of college credit or military service as previously required. This move widens the chronically understaffed NOPD’s applicant pool, allowing for more potential hires. More hires means more officers. More officers means a safer New Orleans.

Even as Mayor Mitch Landrieu launched an aggressive hiring campaign to increase the force from around 1,100 to 1,575 officers, NOPD struggles to recruit new officers. There are interested individuals, but NOPD’s hiring standards have eliminated many potential officers from the applicant pool.  

More than one-third of the applicants in the first half of 2014 applied despite knowing that they did not meet NOPD’s educational standard. Another 30 percent did not even submit a transcript. Overall, in 2014, NOPD turned away 1,000 applicants because they did not meet the educational requirement.

NOPD cannot ensure the safety of New Orleanians if does not have enough officers to do so. A 2014 Inspector General report found that NOPD did not have enough manpower to adequately respond to citizen-generated calls for service, and recommended an increase in officers assigned to answer these calls. This lack in manpower has also contributed to a 30 percent decrease in the number of criminal bookings in the last four years despite a rise in the overall crime rate. Crime is falling through NOPD’s unmanned cracks.

Reducing the education requirement will not only allow for a larger police force, but a more diverse one. Lower income areas tend to have low high school graduation rates and subsequently even lower rates of college graduation, while having higher minority populations and crime rates. The new education requirement will allow NOPD to hire from these areas and increase racial and social diversity. This could help bolster police relations in these areas as the new officers could help create connections and have more insight into the neighborhoods like New Orleans East and Central City. It will also provide a better employment option to New Orleans’ more economically challenged areas. 

Critics of this policy worry that NOPD should hold people to a higher educational standard if they plan to give them the right to take a life — even though the United States military finds a GED sufficient to enlist and do just that. The reduced education requirement only allows more people to get their foot in the door. Applicants still have to undergo written tests, interviews, physical evaluations and graduate the police academy before they can wear a badge. The NOPD has also added a human resource professional to their review panel to help maintain the rigor of the hiring process. In addition, NOPD requires a college degree to become a sergeant and offers a pay increase of $100 for each level of higher education attained. 

The city of New Orleans made a smart move by reducing the level of education requirement to join NOPD. Now the department can expand its force with greater ease and use the increased manpower to keep New Orleans safer. A safer city allow citizens to feel more comfortable in their neighborhoods and interact with the local community, boosting local morale and the economy. Ultimately, NOPD has taken a step in the right direction toward making New Orleans a happier, safer place to live. 

Emily Carmichael is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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