Mayor Cantrell to set benchmarks for her police chief

Cantrell on NOPD Chief Harrison
Updated: Jun. 7, 2018 at 10:52 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Mayor Latoya Cantrell wants to reduce crime through what she calls a holistic approach, and she talked to FOX 8 News recently about working to set benchmarks for NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison, whom she retained from the previous mayor's administration.

FOX 8 asked Cantrell about some of the specific benchmarks she has relating to the crime fight.

"Well, one is staying on the projectory and the path to hire more police officers...In addition to that, it is really wanting to align more community policing with where crime is occurring, so I meet with the police chief several times a week. I get my updates every morning," she said.

Former Mayor Marc Morial brought in out-of-towner Richard Pennington to be his police chief. From the start, Pennington pledged to cut the city's murder rate in half or he would resign.

Pennington succeeded.

"Within the first 10 minutes of his introduction speech, he was talking about the benchmarks for himself. One of which was to reduce the homicide rate," said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

FOX 8 News asked Cantrell if there are any such benchmarks for Harrison.

"Well you know, there is one that is being created, one getting a sense of the scope of crime and where it's happening in the city. We're seeing now that the homicide is mirroring where we were last year," said Cantrell.

An NOPD spokesman in a written communication said shootings in the city are down by 30 percent year-to-date.

Still, Cantrell said during the interview in her City Hall office that shootings, burglaries and armed robberies are a big concern for her.

Cantrell was asked if she envisioned down the line having a serious conversation with her police chief if gun violence is not reduced by a certain percentage.

"Absolutely, that is something that is definitely in the works and can happen if we continue to see an uptick absolutely. If I am feeling confident in the mitigation measures, then I will of course continue to stand by the chief. All of the officers who are working very hard, but also trying to push other city departments to address issues in neighborhoods that have a direct influence on crime in particular areas, so whether that is lighting, blighted properties," said Mayor Cantrell.

Goyeneche agrees that having benchmarks for recruitment and hiring is warranted.

"We're down about 500 officers. Last year we finished the year slightly in the red," said Goyeneche.

And Goyeneche said citizens want improvement in the violent crime problem.

"I think another metric that will be included in any benchmarks for the police department is going to be the violent crime rate," he said.

Areas Goyeneche said police chiefs around the country self-identify.

"And  it's already a priority list, but I think that in a situation where a new mayor comes in and she has retained the old chief I think that she is going to want to make sure that the new chief and her are a good fit," he said.

Goyeneche said benchmarks related to the time it takes for officers to respond to calls should be a part of the equation, as well.

"The response times, when someone dials 911 how long do they have to wait for a police officer to arrive," said Goyeneche.

Cantrell said she would work to address all factors related to the crime problem.

"What is a priority for me outside of NOPD is working with the Youth Study Center that is where our juveniles go.  They have been pretty much in a holding pattern, being at full capacity and so really taking a deeper-dive, working with these youths, working with the judges as well as families. That's where our focus is right now," said the mayor.

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