Off Harrison Avenue in City Park, back by a police horse trailer and next to a port-a-potty, is a small trailer with a nondescript sign: “Administrative Support Unit.” In the single, windowless room, desks are crammed together. Tongue-in-cheek signs on the walls read “ASU: Aspiring Superstars Unit” and “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
You wouldn’t know it, but in this trailer are nine of the highest ranking officers in the New Orleans Police Department. Eight are captains; one is a major. They normally would supervise lower-ranking officers, perhaps on patrol or in conducting investigations.
Here, they supervise no one. They spend their days investigating possible violations of NOPD policy, similar to the work done by the department’s Public Integrity Bureau.
But that work should be done by lower-ranking officers, not captains or majors, according to a report issued by the Civil Service Department this week. It recommends that the commission order Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas to assign them to work consistent with their rank or officially demote them to lieutenant.
The department investigated the issue after the officers appealed their assignments.
The report follows a commission ruling earlier this year that the officers deserve the same 10 percent pay increase awarded to members of the Public Integrity Bureau because they essentially do the same work.
They’re still not getting that money, according to Capt. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, and Raymond Burkart III, an attorney for the local Fraternal Order of Police. The case is on appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to court records.
The Lens sought a response to the report from the city of New Orleans but didn’t hear back.
Glasser, a 34-year veteran of the department, is one of nine who have been assigned to the Administrative Support Unit since September 2012. He compared it to the Japanese “Boredom Rooms.”
In Japan, “companies can’t fire their employees legally so they give them no tasks and hope that boredom and humiliation forces them to quit,” Glasser said. Department leaders are “clearly sending a message by doing this.”
The location of the unit — a few miles from police headquarters in Mid-City — is no accident, Glasser said.
“We have been physically removed from any real function of the police department,” he said. “We are insulated from all decision-making and strategic work.”
Glasser said he and his colleagues were moved to the unit because they are critical of the direction of the department and because Serpas wants his own people in leadership positions.
Burkart, whose father Maj. Raymond Burkart also is assigned to the unit, agreed. “We believe without a doubt that those captains and major are being punished,” he said.
In addition to recommending that the officers be reassigned or demoted, the Civil Service Department report said the department should remove a special pay rate for the unit commander.
Glasser said sitting in the office is a waste of police skills and experience. The unit “is like a bunch of surgeons cleaning out bedpans,” he said. “But a humiliating work environment won’t make me quit.”