Starting Feb. 6, all New Orleans Police Department officers began working 12-hour shifts through Mardi Gras, with officers (including plainclothes cops) assigned parade route duty, working at least eight-hour shifts. The understaffed department also is supported by 42 Louisiana State Police officers, who joined the city's Mardi Gras law enforcement ranks Feb. 6, and another 150 state troopers are expected for the second week of parades. There also will be 10 officers from St. John the Baptist Parish on Mardi Gras Day, as well as six officers from Tulane University and five from the University of New Orleans.
These boosts in police visibility during Carnival support NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison's other staffing efforts, including reassigning 25 officers from desk duty to patrol and using a 16-member task force to fill in patrol gaps in all NOPD districts.
During a Feb. 5 New Orleans City Council meeting, Harrison also said 29 recruits are expected to join the ranks next month, with another recruit class underway this summer. Harrison also wants to grow the ranks of the NOPD's Reserve Division, which includes commissioned officers who have retired (they are provided a $500 uniform stipend but are unpaid). The reserve currently has 70 officers, but Harrison wants "triple digits."
As part of an aggressive recruitment campaign — which includes an ad that aired during the Super Bowl and will air again during the Grammy Awards and other major televised events — Harrison also wants to hire recruiters. With a residency requirement now lifted from NOPD's application, Harrison wants to remove a 60-hour college credit requirement and consolidate the recruit testing dates into one day to speed the process.
"This doesn't change the robust recruiting process," Harrison said. "It only increases the applicant pool."
On Feb. 2, Mayor Mitch Landrieu reminded New Orleanians of the multitude of policing efforts, parking restrictions, parade-watching rules and other Carnival season measures. The city also launched its Mardi Gras website (www.nola.gov/city/mardi-gras) with all the rules, regulations and maps, as well as locations where revelers can urinate on Mardi Gras day: There will be 650 city-provided toilets near parade routes, and a map on the site shows where they are.