By Beau Evans, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
With Police Superintendent Michael Harrison set to leave for Baltimore in less than 10 days, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s spokesman said Tuesday (Jan. 8) she plans to name his replacement before Harrison departs. Harrison will step down from the New Orleans Police Department’s top post on Jan. 17, according to a department spokesman.
Word that Harrison was being considered as Baltimore’s next police commissioner surfaced in news reports last month. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Tuesday morning that Harrison had accepted the job offer, despite stating publicly last month that Harrison planned to stay in New Orleans.
Asked about the mayor’s plan to replace Harrison, spokesman Beau Tidwell issued a statement: “Mayor Cantrell anticipates announcing a new Superintendent prior to Chief Harrison’s departure. We will keep media updated.”
Just prior, Cantrell had issued a four-sentence statement praising Harrison and the department’s progress.
Several city officials and local law enforcement community members offered their views Tuesday on how the selection process should unfold. Most said the department has enough of a talent pool to produce a qualified candidate internally, though some added Cantrell ought to consider expanding the search with an open application.
Donovan Livaccari, lead attorney for the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police’s New Orleans chapter, said he believes enough qualified candidates exist already in the police department to go with a promotion.
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission, said much the same while adding that a national search likely would not turn up many extra qualified candidates beyond those already in the department.
“At any given time, there are going to be a few people qualified to be superintendent,” Goyeneche said. “Less than a handful of people.”
New Orleans Councilman Jared Brossett, however, called for a national search.
“I think that’s the best way to build as many qualified candidates with extensive experience as possible,” Brossett said.
Councilwoman Helena Moreno, who is the council’s vice president, said she has not yet talked to the mayor about the subject but suggested looking inward might be a good place to start.
“I think we have great talent within the department and we need to explore that,” Moreno said.
Prior to her election, Cantrell publicly stated she would conduct a national search for Harrison’s replacement. “I think that it’s unfortunate that (Harrison) hasn’t been given the autonomy and the authority to do his job, so I would be looking for a (new) chief,” she told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in a July 2017 interview.
For his part, Harrison was tapped to serve as interim superintendent in 2014 after the sudden retirement of his predecessor, former police chief Ronal Serpas. Then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu made Harrison’s appointment permanent two months later. Landrieu conducted a national search to pick Serpas, a former top NOPD deputy who led the Nashville Police Department before returning to New Orleans.
Harrison joined the New Orleans Police Department in November 1991, according to city employment records. He commanded the department’s 7th District in New Orleans East before rising to the superintendent’s post. He was retained by Cantrell after her May 7, 2018, inauguration.
The outgoing superintendent drew rounds of praise from officials and observers Tuesday, highlighting Harrison’s stewardship of the department still adapting to reforms mandated by a federal consent decree. The Baltimore Police Department is also under a consent decree.
Harrison is set to draw a nearly $160,000 pension from New Orleans while also earning a salary in Baltimore. Baltimore officials said Tuesday his contract terms were not yet finalized.