Chief Nikeo Collins shares a response to concerned citizens regarding recent criminal activity and explains the background that has led us to the current state of crime in the City of Natchitoches
OFFICER SHORTAGES & BASE RATE OF PAY
Another reform that took place in 2018 involved the passing of a Bill that required all Reserve Police Officers in this State of Louisiana to be POST certified. POST certification requires an officer attend a 17-week long academy which provides the officer with over 490 hours of training in various fields. Historically the NPD hosted numerous academies resulting in the training of several law enforcement officers from numerous departments. This academy taught over 190 hours of POST training that was conducted by numerous instructors from the NPD, NPSO, and District Attorney’s Office.
As you may know I along with several other officers, deputies, and State Troopers started out as NPD Reserve Officers. They [Reserve Officers] volunteer and provide services and additional manpower to the City of Natchitoches during festivals, games, and special events. They conduct patrol duties and other police related functions. They also provide a pool of candidates for agencies. This law was passed in 2018 but its implementation was extended each year due to the urging of law enforcement, who expressed concern over the detrimental effects it would have on agencies that utilized them around the State.
On January 1 this law finally took effect after 4 years of delays. Our current Reserves were grandfathered in and are required to complete annual POST training similar to all officers. Our unit that once had 30 Reserve Officers now has only 14. A Reserve Officer is a part-time position but requires a 17-week commitment in order to obtain. This is not practical when most Reserves were either local citizens who had full-time jobs or students pursuing Criminal Justice degrees. So, a source of additional officers was eliminated and it has had a definite impact.
The Natchitoches Police Department, like most other departments across this nation, is dealing with staff shortages. We currently have positions for 70 full-time employees and are 14 officers down.
When I came into office, we were 7 officers down and most agencies around the State were having to take steps to try and prevent their work force from shrinking due to the “Great Resignation” caused by the after effects of the pandemic that left most businesses lacking the staff to maintain normal operations.
SPD was 140 down, APD was 100 down, New Orleans was over 1,000 down, and LSP was 300 down.
Several law enforcement agencies were able to provide pay increases to motivate employees to come back to work, or to reduce the loss of experienced personnel. Prior to me coming into office the administration prepared a compensation study looking at the rate of pay for several agencies and it was found that the Natchitoches Police Department was ranked 8 out of 9 in pay. It was noted that the beginning rate of pay was below both local agencies who paid $2 more. It was noted that the call volume of the officers as compared to other agencies versus pay was disparate.
The officers base rate of pay is $13 per hour and this has been in effect since 2018 when positions were given up to fund a $1 raise for the base officer. The Natchitoches Police Department once had 83 positions and has downsized to 70 over the years due to the elimination of positions by administrators in order to fund raises in an attempt to keep the pay rate competitive. If the pay rate is not competitive and there is a disproportionate amount of work as compared to other agencies this creates the training ground effect.
- We currently have 4 patrol shifts consisting of 5-6 officers covering an area of 26.28 miles Monday – Sunday.
- We have only 7 investigators responsible for the investigation of all crimes from Burglaries to Homicides.
- We have 1 Task Force agent that works with 3 agents from the NPSO on the Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force.
- We have 1 Records Supervisor, 3 Fulltime and 3 Part-Time Records Clerks.
- We have 7 dispatchers and 1 dispatch supervisor.
- We have 3 new officers in the Alexandria Regional Academy.
- We no longer have officers in the Motorcycle Division and Warrant Division.
- We recently lost a series of officers who all went to higher paying jobs.
- Three detectives (2 Sergeants 1 Corporal) all went to the Louisiana State Police starting out at twice the pay.
- One officer passed due to heatstroke.
- One officer went to Bossier SO, one to ATC, one to LSU Medical Security, one to NSU PD, and one to NPSB to teach.
It takes 17 weeks to get an officer POST certified. It is taking 2+ months to get a person started as a police officer. I provisionally hired 2 new dispatchers and 2 police officers at the beginning of September. Due to the long onboarding process, we ended up with only 1 dispatcher and 1 officer. The dispatcher started two weeks ago and the officer started Monday. It takes months to get an officer hired on, then 4 months at an academy and 1 -2 months going through Field Training Officer training. This means that it takes a long time to produce a new officer. It takes seconds for another agency to hire them. There is a pay study currently being done for Fire and Police.
Finally, another issue that the pandemic years produced was that several inmates that were incarcerated were released due the DPS guidelines designed to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus infection. This increased the number criminals released back into our communities. This has had a detrimental effect on numerous things that were once taken for granted in this community. Trustees helped keep our City and Parish clean by conducting services such as litter control and grass cutting. These services had to stop once they were released.