- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed a pair of 5 percent pay raises for New Orleans police officers Friday, saying city revenue is coming in at higher-than-projected levels.

The announcement comes as the city deals with a stubborn violent crime problem and amid criticism that Landrieu allowed the department to shrink too much while dealing with past years’ budget problems. The mayor said the raises are intended to help retain current officers and recruit new ones.

Landrieu said 2014 revenue will exceed projections by $14.6 million, reaching $536.1 million. Projections for 2015 are being increased by more than $12 million, bringing the total to $549.1 million.

Landrieu proposed a 5 percent raise for police officers on July 1 and another 5 percent raise on Jan. 1. An earlier 5 percent raise took effect last January.

Landrieu’s proposal still needs approval from the City Council and the city’s Civil Service Commission. A majority of both bodies attended Landrieu’s news conference Friday.

“When I took office, we faced a dire fiscal crisis on the verge of bankruptcy,” Landrieu, who inherited an $80 million deficit when he took office in 2010, said in a news release. “By cutting, reorganizing, and investing in key priorities like retail growth, we’ve been able to turn around the budget and will now be able to give NOPD what it needs to grow and keep our streets safe - my top priority.”

The police force has dropped from about 1,600 officers to below 1,200 in the past several years. The city has undertaken a recruitment effort to fight the attrition. Landrieu was easily re-elected in 2014 while fending off criticism about the depleted force.

A smaller force has made it more difficult for the department to take on labor-intensive preventative programs such as community policing, local analysts have said.

“When we took office, every decision we made was one between bad and worse; now, we’re in a much better position and can start making decisions between good and better,” Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin said.

Still, not everyone is convinced that hundreds of new officers are needed. The city’s inspector general’s office said this week that the Police Department has not adequately accounted for its spending and cannot prove it needs to increase the force to 1,600.

City officials disputed that, saying the city has implemented data-driven policing and has made more data available to the public.

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