NEW ORLEANS—The New Orleans Crime Coalition (NOCC) announces the results (posted on www.crimecoalitionnola.org) of its second annual survey measuring public perception of the New Orleans Police Department's performance in ensuring the safety of its citizenry.
NOCC initiates and reports this survey in the strong conviction that a regular public spotlight on how citizens perceive their police department is a powerful ongoing catalyst to make New Orleans streets safer. The study is funded by the Business Council of New Orleans and The River Region, Baptist Community Ministries Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
In August, 2009, NOCC hired Wilson Research Strategies (WRS), a nationally recognized survey-research firm, to carry out a series of measurements of citizen satisfaction with the NOPD and reported those results to the public. This year, WRS repeated the survey on August 24-26, 2010.
In comparison with the 2009 results, overall citizen satisfaction is up, with half of respondents (50%) reporting that they are satisfied with NOPD. In 2009, only 1 in 3 (33%) were satisfied with the NOPD. This is a strong improvement in a year, but still leaves a large satisfaction gap. High performing police departments in other cities typically score no lower than the 70% range on this measure.
Additionally, in 2009, 41% of survey respondents were satisfied with how NOPD cooperated with the public to address their concerns. In the current poll, 50% are satisfied with that cooperation.
The NOCC attributes the increase in citizen satisfaction with NOPD after a year of devastating reports of police misconduct to the current administration's enacting specific police department reforms like those set forth in the "Forward New Orleans" platform during the last election. In response, then mayoral candidate Mitch Landrieu pledged to appoint a highly qualified police chief with a track record of leading change in an urban police department and who would commit to swift implementation of "community policing." Newly appointed NOPD Superintendent Serpas has moved quickly to implement this form of policing, most notably by assigning a sergeant in each police district to oversee that bridges are built and maintained between the police and those who live and work in each district.
"My priority is to reform this police department and restore public confidence. I am pleased that the reforms implemented thus far are working, but there is much more work to be done," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "A great part of reducing crime in this city is to regain the trust of its citizens. In order to do that we must reform the NOPD, which is why I invited the Department of Justice to partner with us in that effort and hired a police chief who understands and practices community policing and can facilitate a partnership with the neighborhoods of the city."
Michael Cowan, Chair of the NOCC, stated, "As community policing takes hold across our city, we expect to see the percentage of citizens expressing satisfaction rising steadily in future polls of New Orleanians' perceptions of their police department. The NOCC pledges to continue to conduct this poll and inform the city of the results. Chief Serpas has pledged to brief his commanders on these results in detail and use them as basis for action-planning in the police districts. "
"The findings in this survey point to areas where we have improved dramatically, but also point out where we have room to grow," stated NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. "This survey clearly points out we have considerable work to do in the areas of honesty and integrity, professionalism, attitude of officers and the overall competence of the NOPD; however, it appears to be clear that, at the individual employee contact level of analysis, our officers do very well, but as an institution the NOPD has significant need for reform. The hard working professionals of the NOPD will continue to provide competent, professional and courteous service, and I will expect no less."
Research on public safety reveals that when police collaborate with neighborhood residents and business owners to see that violent crime is prevented, it is. Conversely, when citizens and police fail to cooperate effectively, violent crime takes neighborhoods captive and makes whole cities vulnerable. Public safety will not be achieved in New Orleans until neighborhood residents and the police assigned to serve and protect them learn to solve crime problems together. Community Policing based in neighborhoods has been successfully implemented across the United States and around the world, but only sporadically and unevenly in New Orleans. Putting full-scale community policing in place throughout our city is one critical element in making it a safe place for all. NOCC understands that the NOPD cannot do effective community policing by themselves. Neighborhood residents and business owners must do their part, too, and the NOCC will encourage and challenge neighborhood partners to hold up their end of this essential public-safety partnership.
Violent crime poses the most immediate threat to the future of New Orleans. Without safe streets, the quality of life of our residents and visitors will remain unacceptable, no matter how much good work goes on in other areas. For that reason, organized citizens and public officials must focus relentlessly on improving our local criminal-justice system's capacity to do all within their power to reduce violent crime. Those agencies include the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), the District Attorney, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office, Orleans Public Defenders Office, Magistrate, and Criminal Court. Success requires new forms and levels of collaboration among those agencies, and this will require the establishment by the Mayor of a local criminal justice coordinating council answerable to him for joint planning and budgeting. NOCC will continue to monitor and support that cooperation.
Research Design and Statement of Methodology - WRS conducted a research study of adults across the city of New Orleans. WRS obtained a list of residents and selected a random sample equally distributed across New Orleans' 8 police districts. Respondents were contacted by phone via a live telephone interview August 24-26, 2010. The study has a sample size of n=600 adults. The margin of error is equal to +/- 4.0% in 95 out of 100 cases. Chris Wilson, CEO of Wilson Research Strategies, and Ryan Steusloff, Account Executive, were lead researchers on this project. Daniel Narvaiz and Connor Walsh provided project management and analytical support.