On Monday, Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu unveiled a 21-member committee that will advise him on the selection of the city’s next police superintendent. Landrieu used the opportunity to reiterate that the selection of a new top cop remains his top priority.
Landrieu and all of his campaign rivals promised to conduct a national search to find the next leader of the NOPD. The phrase “national search” has become something of a code that politicians use to softly condemn the conduct of their local police department. Federal investigators have been swarming around police headquarters and are examining several suspicious police killings in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and citizens’ anger about the conduct and effectiveness of the police department has been palpable.
“Well, I think New Orleans is a happenin’ place right now,” [Landrieu] said when asked whether the federal probes might limit interest in the job. “So, I think there are a lot of people that may be very interested in being on the ground of a city that’s going to go from worst to best.”
And though Landrieu and others have repeatedly called it a “national search,” local candidates will be considered, he said. [emphasis mine]
Would the promotion of any NOPD incumbent to the superintendent position be an acceptable choice for New Orleanians?
Would even a highly decorated and generally well-respected deputy have the public credibility to truly reform the department? Would they have the internal credibility within the department?
Today, federal prosecutors unsealed files that detail one of the most sickening stories I’ve ever read about a modern American police department. A whole coterie of officers conspired to cover up the infamous Danziger bridge incident, in which officers killed two hurricane refugees and wounded four others.
It is not clear how many people within the hierarchy of the NOPD were aware of this attempted cover-up or the extent to which NOPD district commanders or departmental deputies have intimate knowledge of any of the alleged wrongdoings of the officers on the force.
But how would the public feel about promoting someone who may have averted eyes from such systemic misconduct?
Even a saintly higher-up, one who worked slowly behind the scenes to expose the criminality of those working around him or her would really struggle to implement reforms given how famously police officers stick together on one side of the so-called thin blue line.
Would you accept a new superintendent who was promoted from within the NOPD? Do you think Mitch Landrieu is seriously considering making a local hire? Would it be inappropriate not to?