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Since Hurricane Katrina, resignations from the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) have increased, and the department went more than a year without recruiting enough candidates to justify a police academy training course. This study presents practical recommendations for change that could help the NOPD improve recruiting and retention. Issues addressed include the lack of affordable post-Katrina housing, the fact that the families of many police officers no longer live in the New Orleans area, the destroyed departmental infrastructure, and a budget that does not provide enough resources to meet basic needs. The study focuses on compensation, including housing; the promotion process and the career management system; recruiting; the mix of officers and civilians; and ways to improve the morale of the NOPD. The recommendations, which are specifically tailored to the unique circumstances of the NOPD, include (1) using civilian employees, where appropriate, for jobs currently being performed by uniformed officers; (2) developing a proactive recruiting program; (3) offering some of the city’s housing stock in-kind to police officers or selling the property and using the proceeds to improve compensation; (4) increasing the frequency of promotion examinations; (5) eliminating the backlog of promotions to higher levels in the department; (6) restructuring compensation to attract recruits and retain serving officers; (7) establishing a first-responders charter school; and (8) rebuilding the police infrastructure to improve morale.

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The study was performed as part of the RAND Corporation’s continuing program of self-initiated independent research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research and development provisions of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its federally funded research and development centers. The research was conducted in the Safety and Justice Program within RAND’s Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment Division.

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