The issue of paid private details is one that has tainted the New Orleans Police Department for some time. The time-honored practice of hiring a uniformed officer with a marked car to guard your school fair or tamp down idiocy at your campus bar was tawdry enough.
Then came the film details scandal and the traffic camera review scandal, in which NOPD officers actually set up private companies to dole out detail work, all of which led to a consent decree with the Department of Justice and a new City Hall office overseeing details.
In the debate over private details, proponents often ask, "What's the problem? They're not on public time."
Well, technically, no. But their booking agents are.
This week, The Lens' Tom Gogola published a piece revealing one of the key reforms missed by both the mayor's office and the feds: 911 operators answer hundreds of calls every day related to police officers’ moonlighting.
Three recent monthly reports show that up to 12 percent of all calls taken by emergency operators were from officers starting their privately paid-detail work, and reporting in as required by New Orleans Police Department policy. In December, that was 8,129 moonlighting calls out of 69,090 answered at the 911 center.When Gogola asks the obvious question--would having another office route the off-duty, ready-for-detail offers' calls reduce the call rate at 911 and speed response time--he's told
At the other end of the spectrum, about 10 percent of 911 callers abandon the effort before the operator answers — significantly higher than the 2 percent goal identified as a national standard. In December, 3,866 callers to 911 hung up before an operator answered.
The city doesn’t plan to find out soon, saying it won’t change the procedure even though the Police Department is setting up new policies and a new office to manage all off-duty work for its officers.Look, I like cops, on the whole, particularly cops in New Orleans, a challenging mashup of Gritty City and Disneyland for Grownups. If I ran things, private details would be illegal and unnecessary, because cops would be paid enough to make a living without them.
But I know that ain't about to happen, so I'm resigned to the practice. That said, I'd really like to see emergency response systems set aside to, I dunno, respond to emergencies. Surely the city can find another tool to manage the blue labor pool?
Back in the bad old days, when the New Orleans Musicians' Union was little more than a soft protection racket whose primary function seemed to be discouraging membership, there was a sign over the front door proclaiming, "We're not here to get you gigs."
I wonder if Deac's still got that thing stashed somewhere in the union hall. Might be time to hang it at the call center.