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Still under federal scrutiny, New Orleans police discuss hiring efforts in hearing at US court


NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police officials touted recent pay raises for officers and efforts to sign up Hispanic and Vietnamese residents as they outlined recruiting efforts for a federal judge.

The department has been trying to recruit, train and hire a diverse group of officers to boost its ranks from less than 1,200 to around 1,600. Efforts include advertising on Spanish- and Vietnamese-language broadcast stations and print media.

The hiring effort comes as the department also works to implement major court-ordered reforms governing all aspects of its work — including recruiting, screening and training of applicants.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan presided Thursday over a public hearing on the reform plan. Court approval of the plan followed an extensive 2010 Justice Department probe of the department, brought on after decades of scandal that included deadly shootings of civilians following Hurricane Katrina.

Morgan and court-appointed monitors said progress is being made in restructuring training and recruitment efforts, as well as compliance with requirements that officers use body-worn cameras to document interactions with the public.

"We have had some solid accomplishments," Morgan said.

Jonathan Aronie, part of the court-appointed firm that is monitoring the department's compliance with the reform plan, said improvements are needed in several aspects of the application, screening and testing system for hiring new officers.

However, Aronie also said the department has, in several instances, recognized deficiencies before the monitor pointed them out and has been taking steps to improve them.

For example, Aronie noted deficiencies in the written tests given to recruits. And, he said interviews of applicants need to be restructured.

Aronie said police officials not only agreed with that conclusion but were already taking steps to improve the tests, while seeking advice from human resources professionals on interview techniques.

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