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42.24.23 – FOX8Live.com -NEW ORLEANS (WVUE)

Legislation that aims to entice more people into law enforcement sailed out of a state House committee Monday (April 24).

House Bill 563 would provide thousands of dollars in bonuses for newly employed law enforcement officers in the state. Police manpower shortages have been a problem for years in New Orleans, but are also being experienced in other agencies around the state and nation.

“The profession’s taken some pokes from politicians, from the public, and now these folks are needed again,” said Eric Hessler, an attorney with the Police Association of New Orleans. “They’ve kind of seen that it’s a fickle job sometimes. And I think they’re just, you know, the average person is not necessarily attracted to this profession any longer.”

The bill is authored by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) and was put forth in the House Appropriations Committee meeting by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue (R-Houma).

“In this bill, the recruitment and incentive program HB 563 would use one-time funding to provide $5,000 on a one-time signing bonus to newly employed municipal police officers, deputy sheriffs and state police troopers,” Zeringue said.

The legislation sets forth stipulations for getting the money.

“To qualify, the newly employed officer can’t have been previously employed as a law enforcement officer in Louisiana,” Zeringue said. “They must maintain continuous full-time (employment) for two years. They must be POST-certified and must have permanent job duties that include making arrests, performing searches and seizures or executing criminal warrants. And funding would be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Hessler applauded the legislation, saying, “Clearly, it’s needed. Most police officers or most persons don’t become police officers because they intend on getting rich. That’s not their intentions, that’s not their drive. But it’s not to hurt that they can make a living and it’s certainly going to assist in recruiting.

“The retention part is going to come. It’s going to be incumbent upon departments to make their particular department and their working conditions and their working environment conducive to officers, so they’ll want to stay.”

The proposed incentive fund for new officers is modeled after a program in Florida.

“Florida has recruited over 1,750 law enforcement officers in the past year because of this program and Florida dedicated $20 million in fiscal year ‘22 and ‘23 for the program,” Zeringue said. “And, so far, they issued about $12 million in incentives.”

The proposed bonuses would go to people hired as Louisiana law enforcement officers on or after July 1. The program would end two years later.

Hessler says the current police manpower levels are the lowest he’s seen.

“I haven’t personally seen it this bad and I think it’s for a variety of reasons,” he said. “But it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it, I will say that.”

The bill now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.