Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA)-June 4, 1994
Author: CHRISTOPHER COOPER Staff writer

Add a mayor’s task force to the list of agencies that have cast a cold eye at the New Orleans Police Department and found it seriously wanting.

What most shocked the citizen’s committee appointed to analyze the department and suggest reforms was the lack of education and management experience the three previous police superintendents brought to the job. Arnesta Taylor, the superintendent who retired last summer, had no college degree and was appointed to the position from the rank of sergeant. His predecessor, Warren Woodfork, had similar credentials.

The lack of formal training is characteristic of the department as a whole, the task force found. Only two dozen officers on the 2,000-person force have graduated from the FBI academy.

“It’s shocking that there’s so little sophistication, just shocking,” task force Chairman Evan Trestman said. “Can you imagine that there’s no incentive at all to get an education? It’s a fact. It’s crazy.”

Many of the report’s conclusions echoed observations already uncovered by the media, harped on by council members and emphasized by blue-ribbon panels: Abysmal morale, a department that can’t keep its patrol cars operating, a bloated staff that puts beat cops at desks and a management staff that is unaware of or unwilling to address the problems of a seriously undisciplined force.

The task force expected problems at the Police Department, but not on such a grand scale, Trestman said.

“You know what they have to go through just to clean up the damn police station?” he asked. “It makes you just want to grab people up by the collar and shake them.”

Some officers have complained about the condition of the stations, where food and garbage often pile up, and elevators frequently don’t work. Department workers sometimes have to do their own building maintenance work.

A sample of what the report contains:

“On any given day, approximately one-half or more of the fleet cars are out of service. This would only be a minor inconvenience if the (cars) were promptly repaired. However, the district offices have no assigned mechanics and private repair facilities refuse corrective work because of the city administration’s unpaid bills. As a result, THE CARS SIT . . . AND SIT . . . AND SIT!!”

In many ways, the 22-page task force report resembles a 365-page report compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. That document, commissioned by the city for $80,000 and completed in 1991, was widely ignored by the past administration.

The association’s report was characterized by turgidity: “Continuing leadership capacity should be enhanced by a series of deliberately programmed actions.”

By contrast, the task force study speaks bluntly of problems that begin at the top: “There has been too much political meddling from City Hall in the everyday staffing and operations of the NOPD. As a consequence, leadership and direction within the department has been grossly inadequate.”

Morial has received the report, but what he plans to do with it is unclear. His spokeswoman, Lisa Burns, said it will first be disseminated to the public. It should be available in public libraries citywide and in various City Hall offices by next week, she said.

Burns said Morial commissioned a number of similar reports on various city departments.

“The reports are just suggestions,” she said. “They are to the mayor, not from the mayor. He will read them.”

Trestman said the committee tried to keep the report short precisely to ensure that it would be read by many. He said he could have made it even shorter.

“I could have written one word and it would solve most of the problems,” he said. “Leadership.”