Former NOPD chief Serpas, FOP attorney commend Ferguson’s efforts

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 7:27 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The nearly four-year tenure of NOPD Supt. Shaun Ferguson has been marked by rising crime, diminishing manpower and incomplete implementation of the police department reforms required by a federal consent decree. But to someone who once sat in his chair, Ferguson exceled despite numerous challenges faced since he replaced Michael Harrison in January 2019.

“I have been convinced since the day Shaun was appointed superintendent that he was going to do a great job,” said Loyola professor and former NOPD Supt. Ronal Serpas. “To this day, I continue to think he’s done a great job.

“He was one of our young leaders that we identified when I was superintendent, and I’m very proud of him.”

Ferguson on Tuesday announced he will retire as of Dec. 22. While the timing was unexpected to some, the decision was not.

“He gave the job his all,” said Donovan Livaccari, attorney for the local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chapter.

“There were things that he accomplished at the police department, and there were things that were difficult at the police department. And some might even argue he was playing against a stacked deck. That consent decree is difficult for anybody to deal with. But I know he gave it his best and we appreciate that.”

Ferguson was Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s pick to lead the police force after Harrison -- Serpas’ successor -- retired and left to head the Baltimore Police Department. Like Serpas and Harrison before him, Ferguson was unable to push the department over the finish line of full compliance with the consent decree that has hung over the NOPD for more than 10 years. He also battled publicly at times with both the New Orleans City Council and District Attorney Jason Williams.

“He had to play a game with very little support,” Serpas said. “He was playing football with six players instead of 11. And I think you got to just take your hat off to someone who gave that much of his life, his time, and his devotion to the people of New Orleans and NOPD.”

Livaccari said some officers like Ferguson more than some of his policies.

“As a person, yes, I think that he was popular amongst the police officers,” Livaccari said. “As a policy -- as a walking, talking policy or policymaker -- I’m not so sure. I think that the men and women of the police department see the policies more than they see the policymaker.”

Serpas said the shortage of police officers is not just a New Orleans problem, but was one that certainly caused Ferguson headaches.

“Recruiting for police has been difficult for as long as I’ve been around it,” Serpas said. “But I do think, following COVID and some of the issues here in New Orleans, it makes it hard.”

Sources tell Fox 8 that recently promoted Deputy Supt. Jonette Williams is Cantrell’s choice to succeed Ferguson. If true, she would become the first woman chief of the NOPD.

“I think that anybody that comes in following Shaun is going to be coming into an uncertain circumstance,” Serpas said. “Just a few of the last many weeks of news would suggest that there’s uncertainty in the city. If it’s Jonette, I wish her the very best.”

Livaccari echoed that sentiment.

“She’s got the tools and we’re happy to try to help her use those tools to succeed,” he said. “We want whoever is the superintendent to succeed, because that helps our members, that helps the department, that helps the community.”

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