Experts: Selection of next police chief crucial for Landrieu

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by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on February 19, 2010 at 7:29 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 19 at 7:40 PM

NEW ORLEANS – Perhaps the most important appointment for incoming Mayor Mitch Landrieu will be his selection of police chief.

Current Superintendent Warren Riley will step down when Landrieu takes office and a committee is being formed to help select the next chief.

Landrieu has promised that the new chief will debut when he does on May 3.

Sources tell Eyewitness News that former New Orleans Police Chief Richard Pennington and former FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Bernazzani may play a role in the selection process.

“I think the citizenry and everybody involved will be looking very closely and as Shakespeare says, will be listening with a greedy ear,” said Councilman James Carter, a member of the city council’s criminal justice committee.

Jay Lapeyre of the New Orleans Crime Coalition, who has agreed to be part of the search committee, said the selection panel will include community, business and civic leaders, as well as some people with crime fighting experience.

Lapeyre said the new chief must restore confidence in the city’s crime-fighting arm.

"Defining the criteria for each person so everyone understands his or her job and you have a culture of integrity, loyalty to the truth, not to people and a focus on violent crime, neighborhood policing, those sorts of things," said Lepeyre.

On Sunday Edition with Dennis Woltering, which airs this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on Channel 4, guests talked about whether the national search for a new police chief should include past and present NOPD officers.

"I think he should do a national search, but included in that national search of course is the city of New Orleans," said Melanie Talia from the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. "It includes officers who are on the job now, and officers who were recently on the job and have retired."

"I think now, it's like we said, it’s the morale problem," said Thom Kahler from the crimetracker website nocrimeline.com. "To cure that, I think the best way would be to pick a chief from inside the department."

One former NOPD Assistant Superintendent, who many thought would be a major candidate for the job told Eyewitness News he's not interested.

Current Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas released a statement saying: "I have had no contact with anyone from the incoming New Orleans administration. Nashville is now in the midst of its 7th consecutive and unprecedented year of overall crime reduction. I am very happy here and have no plan to go anywhere else."
 

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