Snopes says this claim is false:
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin created a phantom force of 700 "virtual policemen."
Actually, that's only partially false:
1. Snopes only discusses a satire from azconservative.org entitled "Nagin Defends Use of 'Phantom Police'", which I linked to on October 1, and which has a creation date of 9/30 at that site.
2. However, there was a real news story from Tony Snow of Fox Radio on 9/27 (at about 9:48AM EST) discussing phantom police. From this (cache):
...Fox News' Tony Snow has said that of the 1700 police working for New Orleans, maybe only 1000 really exist.
Rogers asked someone in the know, who agreed with Snow's statements.
"It's pretty much always been known, but never openly acknowledged, that NOPD's actual numbers were far below the "official" figure of 1500 - 1700," said the source.
"To get that number over 1500, and thus qualify for federal funding, Compass and his predecessors counted reservists and certain retirees as active duty officers. The REAL number is, and has been for some time, a lot closer to 1000."
Some time ago, the Feds were considering taking over the NOPD. Allegedly, that's when the "cooking of the books" on numbers of cops started in earnest, because one of the feds' complaints was the low number of officers, Rogers is told...
This Tony Snow claim was written up in a few minor newspapers; one such link is in "FBI investigating NOPD corruption, phantom cops; $5k bonus" which I posted on 9/29, and which has more information on Elodia Blanco (NOTE: see the 9/24/11 UPDATE below). A direct link is here. And a similar Pravda report is here. I wouldn't suggest trusting that source but instead referring to Snow's report.
Unfortunately, while a link to his report is provided here, now that link goes to simply a short "outro" music-only segment. [UPDATE: the link works, and it's been cached.]
So, we have these two items:
1. There's a satirical article, and a Snopes debunking of that article.
2. A real news story that hasn't been confirmed and needs looking in to.
11/15/05 UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, I sent an email to snopes, and I got the following reply:
Thanks for the heads up!
I thought it might be an autoreply, but now I'm not so sure. They haven't updated their page, and I also attempted to join their forums shortly after sending the email. An administrator needs to approve the request to join their forums, and since it's been over a day I get the feeling my request has been denied.
Back on 9/19 I noted that Snopes had changed a page without providing any indication that they'd made changes. Based on that and on this current case, in the future I won't be putting a great deal of confidence in their reports.
11/16/05 UPDATE: I also sent emails to the Tony Snow show and to azconservative.com. Neither have replied. And, the audio link above does work, you just need to give it time. Here's some of what he says on that clip:
The FBI has been trying to get a complete list of the names of police who didn't show up... of the 500 names that have already been investigate by the fbi, apparently 84% of those names belong to people who... drumroll please... don't exist... They are phantom employees... The city plice were ripping off the people of New Orleans... They had fake cops... the money was going to pals of eddie compass and/or pals of the political establishment... 84%...
UPDATE: azconservative has linked here.
9/24/11 UPDATE: Elodia Blanco writes:
I don't know if the Police Foundation was investigated but I do know that Elodia Blanco was not. It also say's Elodia Blanco was responsible for hiring practices. That is not true. I was the Recruiting Director and responsible for getting clients to join the New Orleans Police Force. Never, Never was I ever responsible for HIRING. The hiring was done by the City of New Orleans Civil Service Department.