One of the most recognized faces during the turmoil of Katrina has spent years out of the spotlight. Former head of the NOPD Eddie Compass resigned just weeks after the storm. A decade later, he wants to set the record straight. He didn't quit.
Ten years ago, he led the NOPD during Katrina in the middle of a storm both professionally and personally. He resigned as chief on Sept. 27 2005. He claims the former mayor forced him out.
"I'm going to tell you I had to sort out Katrina,” Compass said. “I was angry. I busted my butt and I was being vilified. Things said about me were not true."
Compass blames Ray Nagin - the mayor at the time - for tainting a record that he'd spent a lifetime building.
"He destroyed my career and I have to live with that, but God puts you in a place you need to be," he said.
In 1979 at age 20, Compass entered the police academy. The kid from the Sixth Ward and St. Augustine grad had a laser focus on what he wanted in life.
"I dreamed of being the chief,” he said. “When we were in the Police Academy they asked me my aspirations, and I am the only one who stood up and said ‘chief of police.’”
Compass went from patrolman to captain in a six-year period. When the position of chief under the Nagin administration opened up, Compass said Nagin wanted him for the No. 2 job. But leadership as a street cop and job offers elsewhere propelled him to the top spot in New Orleans.
"From the first month I became chief, me and Ray Nagin bumped heads," he said.
Compass said the disagreements continued, and Katrina's landfall brought them to a head.
"When the city started flooding and we started realizing that a lot of people hadn't left their homes and we had to go rescue them, that's when I realized it was serious," he said.
Compass was at the Dome with other first responders keeping order amidst thousands of evacuees. He went up in helicopters to help identify landmarks during the rescue mission. He said communication with the mayor was difficult.
"He was on the 27th floor of the Hyatt,” Compass said. “Terry Ebbert, Marlon Defillo, Jackie Clarkson and I had to walk up the stairs just to talk to him because he wouldn't come down. He didn't want people to know that. He made me a spokesman for the city. That's a role I didn't want to do."
Compass was accused of giving conflicting information about crime and what was happening during the storm. David Benelli was an NOPD lieutenant and president of the Police Association of New Orleans at the time.
"He was giving out conflicting information because the information was conflicting,” Benelli said. “You had no communication whatsoever."
The losses became personal. Almost a week after the flooding on Sept. 3, 2005, NOPD Public Information Officer Paul Accardo committed suicide. Compass said Nagin criticized him for shedding tears.
"He first sent me an email and said I embarrassed the city because I cried, I looked like I was out of control,” Compass said. “He wanted me to give him a 30 to 60 day exit plan."
Benelli said Nagin told Compass that if he didn’t resign, Nagin would l make it difficult for the men and women of the department.
"The mindset of the chief at the time was falling on the sword for his people," Benelli said.
Compass said Nagin gave the impression that he was breaking down every five minutes. Resignation seemed like the only option.
"If Chief Compass had one big fault, it's that he gave a damn about his people and it hurt him personally that his people were hurting," Benelli said.
Compass had tears in his eyes as he thought about the career.
"I loved the Police Department so much, when I lost it I lost a part of me,” Compass said. “I'm never going to love anything like that again."
Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.