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Can the New Chief Turn Around the Troubled New Orleans Department?

Can the New Chief Turn Around the Troubled New Orleans Department?

The AP via YellowBrix

May 08, 2010

NEW ORLEANS — Nashville police chief Ronal Serpas will return to his native New Orleans to take over the city’s scandal-plagued police department, becoming the department’s first white chief since the early 1980s.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu made the announcement Thursday, a day after asking the U.S. Justice Department to send a team to help reorganize a department under several federal investigations. Most notably, US authorities are looking into the shooting deaths of unarmed civilians in the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Four former officers have pleaded guilty in a cover-up of the shootings and the investigation is continuing.

“I’m completely confident that Mayor Landrieu is going to turn that city around and I want to be part of that,” Serpas said during a news conference in Nashville.

Serpas, a third-generation police officer, was a high-ranking member of the New Orleans department when he left in 2001 to become chief of the Washington State Patrol. He took over in Nashville in January 2004. Landrieu and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean both said Thursday that Nashville experienced an annual drop in crime each year after Serpas’ arrival.

Landrieu had hoped for Serpas to start immediately but approved of him staying in Nashville for a few days as that city recovers from floods that killed nine and cause more than $1 billion in damage.

“It is ironic,” said Landrieu, who took office Monday in a city still recovering from Katrina’s floods.

He said Serpas is familiar with the city’s unique, diverse culture but far enough removed from the department to be untainted by its current scandals.

“Having been gone for 10 years, the experience he has in the department actually is an asset,” Landrieu said.

Serpas takes over from Warren Riley, who resigned Monday with the advent of a new administration. His selection comes at a time when black political power in the New Orleans post-Katrina has waned, although the city remains majority black. Landrieu, elected in a cross-racial landslide in February, is the first white mayor since his father, Moon Landrieu, left office in 1978.

Surrounded by members of the multiracial task force that helped him choose a chief, Landrieu acknowledged the likelihood that many black New Orleans residents would have liked to see a black chief.

“Of course, I struggled with that issue,” Landrieu said. But he said Serpas came with high recommendations from interdenominational ministers groups in Nashville and New Orleans who praised the chief’s efforts to improve police relations with African-Americans.

And he said a black chief from outside New Orleans would not necessarily understand unique elements of New Orleans’ culture.

“You could choose a person that was African-American that perhaps did not know what a Mardi Gras Indian was,” Landrieu said, referring to groups of black men who don spectacular outfits of beads and feathers to dance and march during the city’s annual Carnival celebration.


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  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max50_max50

    Gombino

    about 4 years ago

    2658 Comments

    Good luck, Chief. I do not envy you.

  • Marvin_max50

    lajustice

    about 4 years ago

    1178 Comments

    GOOD LUCK CHIEF, from an officer just down the I-10 corridor.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50

    rhood

    about 4 years ago

    23592 Comments

    Best wishes and good luck in your new position.

  • Cp5_max50

    kcsdlew

    about 4 years ago

    490 Comments

    I agree - it's a tough job for ANYBODY; at the same time, ANYBODY has to be an improvement. Good luck, indeed, Chief Serpas!

  • Tlusa_max50

    rsmith6322

    about 4 years ago

    1088 Comments

    Good luck Chief. Although it's a job I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy

  • Image_max50

    usa_24

    about 4 years ago

    5022 Comments

    Good luck.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rsironron

    about 4 years ago

    5220 Comments

    Good luck Chief.

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50

    AKangel

    about 4 years ago

    4972 Comments

    Good luck Chief

  • Bv2_max50

    TIGER_LE3

    about 4 years ago

    604 Comments

    Best of Wishes Chief, You have your work cut out for you...

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50

    Whalewatcher

    about 4 years ago

    11194 Comments

    Best of luck for the new chief. Methinks he's got his work cut out for him ......

  • White_shirt_max50

    uncledennis1

    about 4 years ago

    23294 Comments

    Best to you Chief. You have a mess on your hands.

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50

    Sheriff_1

    about 4 years ago

    8024 Comments

    Good luck. Its going to be an uphill battle but it can be done. Dont back off and dont take BS from the good ole boy network

  • Me_max50

    Badazz_Rebel_Cop1123

    about 4 years ago

    826 Comments

    Good Luck Chief.....I have been there just visiting a buddy and hell its so messed up I wouldnt curse that station on my worse enemy.....LOL

  • Chris_and_i_in_uniform_max50

    JP503

    about 4 years ago

    7616 Comments

    Good luck Chief

  • Pug_max600_max50

    DALLASCRANE

    about 4 years ago

    19382 Comments

    Lot's of Indian traditions from the days of segregation where you could dress up as an Indian but not an African. At 5 grand per costume it's a sight to see. I remember when LE would not go into the Irish Channel Area of New Orleans at night. Katrina missed this area which is 7 feet above sea level and borders the Mississippi River. The Chief has a difficult job ahead. Yes, New Orleans is unique challenge.

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