Search for new NOPD Supt. should be expanded or decided by voters, council members say

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:57 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans City Councilmembers are hopeful Mayor LaToya Cantrell will include them in the process to find a new NOPD superintendent after Shaun Ferguson announced his retirement Tuesday (Dec. 6).

Ferguson’s retirement, effective Dec. 22, will happen just over a week before a voter-approved city charter amendment goes into effect in 2023 that will give the council authority to confirm or deny mayoral appointments.


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Sources tell FOX 8 that the frontrunner to replace Ferguson is recently promoted Deputy Superintendent Jonette Williams. Williams would become the first woman to serve as New Orleans’ top law enforcement officer and the first Black female NOPD superintendent.

Council members say the search should be expanded nationwide, and a decision should not be made without council oversight or an election.

“I do think we’ve reached a point where - like many things in the city of New Orleans with the incompetencies tied to the mayor - if you got a great Mayor you got a great police chief sometimes, but if you do not, you get something in between,” said Council Vice President J.P. Morrell, who has made no secret about his desire to change leadership at NOPD.

Morrell says if such a change happens now, it could be problematic.

“I think replacing this chief with another person in the leadership structure of a broken department is just replacing someone who’s bad at their job with a buddy who is also bad at their job,” said Morrell.

“It sounds like they may be selecting internally,” Councilman Joe Giarrusso said. “My hope is there’s more conversation about a national search because we have a big problem and we want to make sure that we have really good leadership taking over the department at this time.”

Council President Helena Moreno says an appointment before the voter-endorsed charter change would be “disingenuous.”

“Moving forward, there should be a national search for a new police chief to find the best candidate to lead the NOPD. We must ensure that the next chief commits to upholding constitutional policing and transforming the department. That is why any chosen candidate for chief must adhere to the City Council confirmation process widely endorsed by the voters of the City. It would be disingenuous to the appointee and the people of this city if there were any attempt to circumvent this process, therefore, I am looking forward to the opportunity to engage the public in a community discussion on this important next step,” Moreno said in a statement.

Councilmembers Joe Giarrusso and Leslie Harris also echoed those sentiments.

“It sounds like they may be selecting internally. My hope is there’s more conversation about a national search because we have a big problem and we want to make sure that we have really good leadership taking over the department,” Giarrusso said. “NOPD is designed to be somewhere between the 1,200-to-1,500-person department, so you need somebody who’s really good management skills, somebody who has really good interpersonal skills, somebody who’s done the job before but also can kind of bring in business acumen to all of this is the same time.”

“I’m grateful for Chief Ferguson’s steadfast dedication to the City of New Orleans over the past 24 years. As he moves into his retirement, it’s time we ensure that residents have a voice in selecting our next police chief. This should include a national search, with an appointment that ultimately comes before the Council, something residents overwhelmingly voted to support last month. I look forward to being a part of the process and continuing my efforts to improve public safety,” Harris said in a statement.

Councilmembers Oliver Thomas and Eugene Green voted against putting the amendment on the ballot, concerned with the politics and gridlock, but Green still commented on the timing of this resignation.

“It’s something that the mayor needs to wait and recognize that the voters did make an informed decision,” Green said. “I’m willing to work tomorrow. It doesn’t have to happen that we wait any longer if I can have some input now, but the bottom line is that the voters did vote on something that needs to be taken into account.”

Similar to surrounding parishes, council member Freddie King says the next superintendent should be an elected official.

“Just talking to current and former police officers and law enforcement from across the state... that seems to be the best practice; to have a police chief that is independent from the mayor and any kind of political foolishness,” said King.

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