How will President George W. Bush's "war on terrorism" affect Police Superintendent Richard Pennington's "war on crime" -- and the top cop's ongoing struggle with NOPD's manpower crisis?
Bush has put thousands of military reservists on active duty for possible combat duty overseas, and last week Lt. Arden Taylor, a naval reservist assigned to NOPD's inspections unit, reported to the Naval Reserve base at Belle Chase. But NOPD officials are not yet sure of the exact number of New Orleans police officers who might be affected.
Police personnel director Stephanie Landry has issued a interdepartmental teletype, asking any of the 1,640 officers in the military reserves and an additional 85 reserve cops to contact her office before Uncle Sam contacts them. There were 1,640 commissioned officers on the NOPD on Sept. 21 -- down from the 1,700 needed for certain federal funding programs.
City personnel director J. Michael Doyle says fewer than 100 city employees were called to military service for Persian Gulf War in 1991. NOPD spokesperson Ruth Asher estimates that roughly 50 police officers served in that conflict. But the wartime activation of local cops is a key concern for City Hall and NOPD officials, who have been scrambling for months to staff the city police districts. "We don't have the problem of getting fire recruits like we do with police recruits," Doyle says.
The city must hold the officers' jobs open until they return from military service. Each government employee who serves in the military reserves is entitled to receive 15 days of city leave with full pay, according to an opinion by the state attorney general's office. In addition, New Orleans civil service rules allow for an indefinite amount of unpaid leave time commencing from when they are first called up to 90 days after they are officially relieved from active military duty. "This provision essentially gives them job protection rights," Doyle says.
During the Gulf War, all city employee-military reservists received their full pay until they were officially released from active duty, the personnel director recalls. "It went on for a year," Doyle says.