NEW ORLEANS —
The New Orleans City Council held its first of two special meetings devoted to crime Thursday, pressing the city's police superintendent on his plan to curb an ongoing violent crime wave.
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson held the hot seat during the hours-long virtual meeting. Councilmembers echoed frustrations over recent shootings, carjackings and armed robberies.
"We owe the people of this city a serious, constructive and expansive dialogue to examine the system's most glaring shortfalls and intervene with urgency — with urgency — because it is necessary to save lives," Council President Helena Moreno told Ferguson.
"Parents are having to explain to our kids why they can't go outside and play anymore," Councilman J.P. Morrell said. "The time for pleasantries has passed."
"Our community as a whole feels as if we're in an environment of lawlessness," Councilman Eugene Green said.
Ferguson responded by praising his officers but noting his department has too few of them. The department has 1,058 commissioned officers, hundreds short of his goal. He says about half as many officers are applying each month now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreno suggested merging a few precincts as a remedy. Ferguson voiced opposition to the idea, claiming such a move would hurt relationships between officers and their supervisors.
The council president responded: "Don't get me wrong, relationships are incredibly important, no doubt. But at this point, the people in the city just want what is best to keep them safe."
"We may just have to come to this realization that we’re not going to be a 1,500- or 1,600-police force," she added.
The superintendent did voice optimism toward his other staffing efforts.