Serpas tenure gets mixed reviews

Four years and three months after Ronal Serpas was sworn in as police superintendent, he announced his retirement Monday.

In May 2010, hopes were high that he would be the city's answer to a crime problem that had spiraled out of control.

One day before Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Serpas' appointment, Landrieu had asked for the Justice Department's help in reorganizing the NOPSD. Serpas was on board and had his own ideas for change.

One month into his tenure, he opened all citywide COMSTAT meetings to the public and the media and invited state and federal auditors to evaluate NOPD procedures.

"You've had some accomplishments," said Criminologist Peter Scharf. "To go from 200 murders in 2012 to 155 last year - so it's a huge drop."

Scharf said Serpas did a lot of things right.

"He created a policing strategy that, on the face, had some plausibility," he said.

But Scharf said there were personality issues that caused a decline in NOPD manpower.

"Ronnie has a very combative style," Scharf said. "Some people may think he's arrogant and opinionated - that kind of thing."

Incidents to come would shake the department.

On May 29, 2012, five people were shot in a drive-by at a birthday party on Simon Bolivar. A 5-year-old girl and a young mother were both killed. An 8-year-old boy was also hit.

On Mother's Day of 2013, two men opened fire at a second-line parade, injuring 19 people.

And this summer under Serpas' watch, a shooting on Bourbon Street killed a young woman and injured nine others.

"The reality is, things are not going well," Scharf said. "You know, we've had 19 murders since July 20. Officers are leaving in droves. The replacement of a few officers is far less than the number of officers leaving.

In May the inspector general had questions for Serpas.

"Our public certainly needs crime data," said Ed Quatrevaux. "They have a very strong interest in that."

Quatrevaux accuses the department of misclassifying 41 out of 90 rape cases. He said seven were classified as sexual battery, a charge not reported to the FBI.

"There appeared to be a terse relationship between he and the administration, making fewer things happen," said the Rev. Willie Gable president of the Ministerial Alliance.

The alliance supported Serpas in 2010, but Gable said Serpas' resignation now leaves a job unfinished.

"We've got an interim chief," Gable said. "I hope that chief can move up in the ranks, and one needs to be concerned. Stacking building blocks too fast - they could fall."

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