The New Orleans Police Department has turned to hiring civilians to fill staffing needs as it faces ongoing violent crime in the city.
New Orleans mayoral candidate Laura Rodrigue shared the concern during an interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends First” on Tuesday.
“Resorting to hiring civilians to respond to crime scenes is alarming to the residents and should be alarming throughout the country,” Rodrigue said. “They came out and said that civilians will be responding to non-emergency calls that come in through 911.”
Rodrigue noted that more than 100 calls in the city for alleged rape were classified as non-emergency over the last year.
“The problem with that is within the last year, NOPD received over 100 calls for first-degree rape, first-degree rape being the most serious rape in Louisiana, carrying a mandatory life sentence, and they classified those as non-emergency,” she explained.
“So that should be alarming to people to think that a case or a call that comes in for something serious could be classified as non-emergency,” Rodrigue added.
The city’s police department reportedly lost 150 officers last year. The drop has forced the city to turn to civilians in its effort to respond to non-emergency calls and fill administrative roles.
The department has also rolled back some requirements to enlist in the civilian program, including dismissing past marijuana usage. Credit scores will also no longer be part of the hiring process. However, a standard drug test remains required.
The NOPD will hire up to 75 civilians to respond to selected calls, according to a Thursday press conference by city police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson.
“As we take calls over the phone, there may be some evidence that needs to be collected with that call,” Ferguson said. “We’ll have civilian investigators to go out and collect that evidence instead of an officer having to go out there and collect that evidence.”
In addition to the civilian program, many officers work 12-hour shifts, adding further strain on current officers and potentially discouraging future recruits, according to WDSU News.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, although New Orleans spends $570 per resident on its police budget, second only to New York City, it continues to face staffing problems. The NOPD is now under 1,000 officers for the first time in decades.
The report comes as New Orleans recently passed St. Louis as the murder capital of the nation for the first half of 2022.
The city saw 41 murders per 100,000 people in the first six months of the year, a 141% increase over 2019, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. The murder rate is almost four times the level of Chicago and nearly 20 times the rate in New York City.