A Louisiana lawmaker is proposing legislation that would create a new commission to study a possible merger between the New Orleans Police Department and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The two agencies currently share legal jurisdiction throughout the city and parish.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said Orleans is the only parish where two law enforcement agencies overlap.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)
“You have a shortage of police officers and you’ve got a tremendous amount of criminal deputy sheriffs who don’t police,” said Morrell. “It doesn’t make any sense for the citizens of New Orleans to pay for both groups.”
The Orleans Parish Law Enforcement Streamline and Accountability Commission would have 11 members representing various stakeholders, including the City Council, mayor, sheriff, state legislature and Police and Justice Foundation.
Morrell said the commission would also study how to fund the new department.
“We are spending a tremendous amount of money on law enforcement in the city, which has largely been broken for decades,” he said. “Maybe whatever law enforcement agency exists going forward should have its own budget and should be tasked with going directly to voters to ask for money and make the case to them why the money is necessary.”
In every other Louisiana parish, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer, the warden of the jail, the process server and the tax collector.
In Orleans, four different officials perform those functions.
Eyewitness News political analyst Clancy DuBos said now is a good time for the NOPD and sheriff’s office to join forces.
“I think it’s a false argument to say, oh, it’s too complicated,” DuBos said. “No, it’s not. We at least ought to take an honest look at it and talk about it and analyze it thoroughly and objectively. You’ve got the added the added incentive that taxpayers are paying for both of these offices and both of them are under federal consent decrees.”
The police streamline commission would also consider whether the new chief law enforcer should be an elected position.
“I think there will be an argument that if you merge the sheriff into the police department, the top law enforcement agent in the city of that consolidated department should be elected,” Morrell said.
“If you elect a police chief, then you’re going to have people lining up to contribute and you’re going to have patronage,” DuBos said. “I think if you have a police chief that is appointed by the mayor and approved by the council, you won’t have as much politics in there.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office is now reviewing Morrell’s proposal.
His spokesman released a statement saying, “Public safety remains this administration’s top priority, and we are always interested in starting conversations that could result in more efficient and effective local government.”
Sheriff Marlin Gusman declined to comment on the proposal.