Ashlyn Brothers, FOX8

September 12, 2023

 Civic leaders assessing the qualifications of NOPD superintendent nominee Anne Kirkpatrick on Tuesday (Sept. 12) lauded her experience leading other law enforcement agencies and suggested her status as a New Orleans newcomer could provide valuable fresh perspective.

“This is the first city head that any New Orleans City Council has had to confirm, and this is probably the most important agency head,” said Metropolitan Crime Coalition president Rafael Goyeneche.

Goyeneche said Kirkpatrick appeared the most obvious choice among finalists that also included interim superintendent Michelle Woodfork, with about 20 years of experience as a chief leading departments.

He said the final candidates went through an extensive vetting process with multiple panels and that Mayor LaToya Cantrell moved from Woodfork to Kirkpatrick after reviewing assessments provided by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) search committee and Woodfork’s performance over the past nine months.

“The best way to predict the future is to look at the past,” Goyeneche said. “So, if you want a police chief to be able to hit the ground and start to make an impact (immediately), you want a police chief that has managed a police department the size of or larger than the NOPD.

“No one but Anne Kirkpatrick filled that bill.”

Gregory Rusovich, with the NOLA Coalition that consists of 550 civic business organizations, says Kirkpatrick being an outsider might not be a bad thing. The NOLA Coalition pushed for the nationwide search.

“When you come in from the outside, you can look and bring best practices of what you experienced in several different municipalities,” Rusovich said.

Goyeneche says the objective was to hire the best person for the job, and that Kirkpatrick has experience working in cities with high crime rates similar to New Orleans.

“Probably the most decorated police superintendent that the NOPD has hired over the last 40 years was Richard Pennington,” Goyeneche said, referring to the NOPD’s leader from 1994-2002. “He came from Washington D.C., so he wasn’t a local. He came from out of town and was largely responsible for reforming the New Orleans Police Department.”

Goyeneche said Kirkpatrick is well aware of the NOPD’s severe staffing shortages, with another net loss of officers expected in 2023.

“She knows that the police department is struggling to achieve final compliance with the consent decree,” he said. “She knows that recruitment and retention need to be priorities. She recognizes that the public is being besieged by crime. She’s aware that crime is down this year versus last year, but she’s also aware crime is up double and triple digits from four years ago in some areas.”

From 2017-20, Kirkpatrick led an Oakland police department that also was under federal oversight, which Goyeneche said can impact officer retention rates. He says Kirkpatrick will need to work quickly to comply with the consent decree that has overseen the NOPD since 2012.

“Officers that have left the force have conducted exit interviews and they said one of the primary reasons that they’re leaving the force is that they perceive that there is a double standard of investigations in the Public Integrity Bureau,” he said. “They believe that certain officers are treated differently than the rank-and-file officers. So, that’s what the court is attempting to determine. And that absolutely has an impact on officer morale, which is critical to the recruitment and retention issue.”

Rusovich said he thinks the NOPD needs proactive policing and enhanced technology to help reduce crime.

“We’ve gone through a crime wave here that is completely unacceptable,” Rusovich said. “The carnage on the streets last year, completely unacceptable.

“(We want) to see results in the reduction of violent crime, getting guns off the street, getting drugs off the streets and moving the city to make it safer. A safer place to live, work and raise a family.”

Cantrell said Woodfork will remain as interim superintendent through Sept. 22, when Kirkpatrick would take over on at least an interim basis. The mayor said Monday she hopes the City Council will confirm her nominee by Oct. 5.