Pressure mounts for Mayor Cantrell to look outside NOPD for superintendent candidates
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The stage is set for the New Orleans Police Department to turn things around as the departure of Superintendent Shaun Ferguson looms overhead, but city leaders say choosing the right replacement will be key.
Sources have told Fox 8 that Mayor LaToya Cantrell may already have her eye on recently promoted Deputy Superintendent Jonette Williams to take the reigns of a police department in one of the nation’s deadliest cities, stretched thin due to manpower shortages. Cantrell has remained silent on how quickly she plans to replace him.
Since Ferguson’s retirement announcement on Tuesday (Dec. 6), community members and city leaders have called for an expanded search of potential candidates.
Ferguson’s last day as the top law enforcement officer in the city will be Dec. 22. Under the current city charter, Mayor Cantrell is tasked with appointing a replacement. However, on Election Day, New Orleans voters approved - by a 60-40 margin - a charter rule change that will give the city council authority to confirm or deny all mayoral appointees. Nearly 62,000 people voted for the charter change, compared to the 48,750 who voted to re-elect Cantrell to a second term in November 2021.
That change does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023, nine days after Ferguson’s retirement.
Council members hope Cantrell will respect the wishes of the voters and include them in the process to find a new superintendent, or expand the search nationwide. One council member even suggested holding an election, similar to neighboring parishes.
Ferguson, in his first public comments on his retirement, suggested a national search for his successor was unnecessary.
“I think the best person for the NOPD is within the NOPD,” he said. “We have great men and women who can lead this department. I think every deputy chief who has worked with me deserves an opportunity.”
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Some say a speedy appointment could cause unnecessary tension that an already overworked department simply cannot afford in a city that has seen a 35% increase in homicides since last year.
“It’s important that (whoever is chosen) have the full confidence of the rest of the police force and the public from day one,” said GNO Inc. President Michael Hecht, a member of the NOLA Coalition, a broad-based group of New Orleans business leaders, organizations, and civic leaders focused on public safety in the city.
Among the 475 members of the NOLA Coalition are Crimestoppers GNO, the French Quarter Management District, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the NAACP New Orleans, the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, and numerous neighborhood associations.
Councilmembers say the next choice should be willing to adhere to voters’ wishes and stand up to council scrutiny.
“Even if (Cantrell) has her own person in mind, it would be best to get the community and get the council involved. She says it’s time to stop fighting. It takes two,” said Councilmember Oliver Thomas.
With newly-approved officer raises, recruitment incentives, and one of the highest murder rates in the country, many say it’s important to make the right choice.
“You need quality. We live or die by leadership,” said LSU Health Criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf.
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