The one time live-in boyfriend of New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas’ daughter is back in blue after serving an unpaid 60-day leave for totaling a NOPD car he was driving drunk.
Mandy Serpas, 28, was living with Special Operations Officer Travis Ward when the accident occurred in February 2009 on the first night of Carnival parades, according to public records recently released by the NOPD in response to a public records request submitted in May.
The Lens reported on the connection between the Serpas family and Ward in May, prior to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s appointment of the new superintendent, but NOPD officials declined to explain why Ward was suspended.
Ward was driving an NOPD cruiser back to the Venetian Isles home he shared with Mandy Serpas when he lost control of the vehicle at Interstate 10 East and Chef Menteur Highway. Ward ran into a guardrail, spinning the “wrecked, marked police vehicle in the center lane of traffic,” according to an NOPD Public Integrity Bureau investigation into the accident.
He immediately was reassigned from the department’s version of a SWAT team to a desk job tracking crime statistics.
His suspension, which was served at the convenience of the department, began a year later in February 2010, a few months before the new police chief took office with a mandate to transform the culture of the troubled city agency.
In March, 33-year-old Ward was telling friends on Facebook that “suspension ain’t half bad,” describing frequent jaunts to Nashville.
The leave ended on May 12, one week after Serpas moved from Nashville to officially became the officer’s boss. Under his punishment, he must get written approval from the superintendent before using any NOPD vehicle after working hours. His take-home car privileges were also suspended for one year ending on Feb. 4, 2011. Ward is now assigned to a night shift in the Eighth District, based in the French Quarter.
The Public Integrity Bureau investigation shows that Ward met up with a few friends from college at a party on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District after policing a Carnival parade. He drank “a few beers” before getting back in his take-home car, Ward told investigators.
After refusing to take sobriety tests at the crash site, Ward was driven to a NOPD testing facility and given two Breathalyzer tests. He failed both tests, blowing above the legal limit with a .08 percent on the first test and .091 percent on the second test. The criminal charge for drunk driving was dropped in traffic court and the case was closed when Ward pleaded guilty to a lesser violation of failure to maintain control of his car. He paid court costs of $61.
Neither traffic-court officials nor the city attorney’s office, which prosecuted the court case, returned phone calls to explain why the drunk driving charge was dropped or how often it does so.
In his account of the night, “foul weather,” not intoxication, was to blame for the accident. “I have never been accused of alcohol-related accidents in a vehicle and so I would like to make the statement that I am not a bad cop,” Ward said.
The officer also said that his wreck was partially to blame for a second accident that happened later that night when other cars were trying to maneuver around the totaled police car in a “slow manner.” He said that no one was injured in either accident.
Neither the officer nor Mandy Serpas responded to requests for comment, and it’s unclear whether the two remain romantically involved.
The drunk driving accident was not Ward’s first brush with trouble, according to records provided by the Public Integrity Bureau. During his eight years in the NOPD, Ward has been investigated six other times for improper or unethical behavior. None of those charges was sustained.
Ward was one of the NOPD officers who was present when off-duty colleagues allegedly beat a group of city transit workers at the Beach Corner Bar and Grill in Mid-City, an event that is the subject of a FBI civil rights investigation. Ward, who was never a subject of the Beach Corner investigation, told Public Integrity Bureau investigators that he did not witness the Beach Corner fight because he was on the other side of the bar when it happened.
Superintendent Serpas has said in the past that he will not give any special treatment to Ward, regardless of the officer’s relationship with his daughter.
“You are accountable for the actions you take no matter who you are,” Serpas said.