Louisiana Governor Declares State Of Emergency Due To Police Shortage

FILE - Gov. Jeff Landry speaks during the start of the special session in the House Chamber on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, La. Landry declared a state of emergency on Thursday, Feb. 15,  due to a police officer shortage. In the executive order, Landry, who previously had a career in law enforcement, said that police departments in the state are experiencing record-low employments — “resulting in increased crime and less public safety.”  (Michael Johnson/The Advocate via AP, Pool, File
FILE - Gov. Jeff Landry speaks during the start of the special session in the House Chamber on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, La. Landry declared a state of emergency on Thursday, Feb. 15, due to a police officer shortage. In the executive order, Landry, who previously had a career in law enforcement, said that police departments in the state are experiencing record-low employments — “resulting in increased crime and less public safety.” (Michael Johnson/The Advocate via AP, Pool, File

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana GOP Gov. Jeff Landry has declared a state of emergency due to a police officer shortage.

Landry's executive order issued Thursday lifts limits on how many new employees Louisiana sheriffs can hire and on payroll increases for their departments.

Landry, who previously had a career in law enforcement, said that police departments in the state are experiencing record-low employments “resulting in increased crime and less public safety.” As of July, sheriff's offices statewide were down 1,800 deputies, Landry said.

“We applaud Governor Landry for highlighting the importance of the law enforcement profession and our state’s desperate need to fill valuable front line deputy positions,” Michael Ranatza, executive director of Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, said in a written statement Friday.

Landry's order removes restrictions that state law places on hiring and payroll for a period of time following a gubernatorial election. Landry was elected last year and took office in January.

Agencies around the U.S. have experienced police shortages in recent years that many in law enforcement blame on a morale hit stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and criticism of police that boiled over with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Small towns, including in Maine, Texas and Ohio, have disbanded their police departments, turning over law enforcement work to county sheriffs, a neighboring town or state police.

Officer resignations were up 47% in 2022, compared with 2019,the year before the pandemic and Floyd’s murder, according to a survey of nearly 200 police agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, DC.-based think tank. Retirements are up 19%.

Landry’s order is in effect until March 15. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol Monday for a special legislative session to address crime.

The "executive order, and the upcoming crime special session, will ensure our law enforcement officers are supported and we can begin to bring law and order back to our state,” Landry said.

Proposed bills that have been filed ahead of the session include legislation to expand methods to carry out death row executions, restrict parole eligibility, add harsher penalties for some crimes and publicize some juvenile court records.

Landry, a former local police officer and sheriff’s deputy, has vowed to crack down on crime in Louisiana, which in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates in the country. The issue was part of his gubernatorial platform, with him often pointing at New Orleans, which has been in the national spotlight for violent crime and will be the site of the 2025 Super Bowl.

Earlier this month, Landry presented his first proposed state budget that included tens of millions in additional dollars for public safety. At least $32 million would fund various State Police initiatives, including expanding State Police presence in New Orleans, a uniform allowance increase and an independent review of the department, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.