Serpas' critics think morale will improve with his retirement

Former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas
Former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With Ronal Serpas no longer in charge of the NOPD, some of his loudest critics think morale on the force will improve. They predict new leadership will make a big difference.

Interim Chief Michael Harrison is well-known to current NOPD officers. With over 20 years on the job, those on the force say they think he'll be able to relate to the challenges officers face on a daily basis.

Talk of replacing Ronal Serpas as police chief has been around for months. New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams says, "If you try something for a very long time and it doesn't work, to continue to try that, I think that's the definition of insanity."

Williams admits council members have discussed NOPD leadership issues at length but never took any action to oust Serpas.

While rumors of his retirement abounded, some say the timing of this announcement was unexpected. "We knew this would happen at some point but today was a surprise, yes," said Police Association of New Orleans President Michael Glasser.

Just last week, Serpas admitted the department failed to alert the public after an officer shot a man in the head during a traffic stop. "I'm sure it didn't help," Glasser said of the incident.

In his position, Glasser talks to officers about manpower and morale issues on a daily basis. He says he sees promise in Michael Harrison, a man whose been through all of the ranks of the NOPD. And Glasser thinks fellow officers will give him a chance saying, "They will judge him by what he does this point forward."

As unhappy as some have been with Serpas' tenure, at least one person is offering an explanation as to why things may have gone so wrong. Donovan Livaccari, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, explains, "Serpas came in as a reform chief, he always liked to describe himself as a change agent and I think to a certain degree, the consent decree deprived him of that opportunity to be that change agent."

But Livaccari says the message of the consent decree could've been delivered to officers in a much better way. "It didn't really come across as being the most supportive message in the world and I think that was bad for morale," said Livaccari.

Now, Michael Harrison will be charged with implementing the changes the consent decree calls for.

Jason Williams says he's very optimistic about the future of the department. "I think people are excited about change. I think there's a certain air that we're moving in a new direction," said Williams.

According to a City Hall source, in his new position as interim police chief, Michael Harrison will make $150,000 a year. Serpas made $186,000.

Serpas will now take a position with Loyola University teaching in their criminal justice department and our sources say he's in line to become president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

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