New Orleans Police Allowing Former Drug Users On Force

By McCarton Ackerman 06/20/14

The department has amended its zero tolerance policy to make up for recruiting shortfalls.

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The New Orleans Police Department is slightly modifying its drug policy in order to allow former users to join the force.

Applicants who admitted to ever using drugs besides marijuana or prescription pills were immediately disqualified, but the policy has now been amended to allow those who have not used drugs in the last 10 years. These changes were approved on Monday by the Civil Service Commission and are effective immediately.

“If…this person in the last ten years has had a very fruitful life, gotten a lot of education and experiences, we are just not going to [disqualify] them anymore at the door," said Supt. Ronal Serpas. Individual applications will still be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The department is currently struggling with a relatively low roster of 1,149 members on its force between the rank of recruit and superintendent. New Orleans officials have been actively working to grow the size to 1,575, but the progress has not been as swift as they hoped. Some remain unconvinced, however, that the policy changes will do much to increase enrollment.

“I really think there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Donovan Livaccari, attorney for the Local Fraternal Order of Police. “We need to work on stemming the attrition and getting the pay issues resolved.”

Of course, some police officers across the country have been prone to drug use once they’re on the force. Earlier this month, a husband and wife cop duo based out of San Diego were arrested on drug charges. Bryce Charpentier was charged with selling, possessing, and transporting drugs, possessing a loaded firearm while under the influence, and conspiracy, while Jennifer Charpentier faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, sales, transportation, and conspiracy. She had worked with the San Diego Police Department for 18 years, while Bryce had been there six years. Both have since been released on bail and pleaded not guilty.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.