Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Ronal Serpas was the new police chief when he described big plans for the New Orleans Police Department in a 12 for the Road interview in 2010.

'You know there's no debate here,' he said then. 'We are going to be a successful police department. We are going to make New Orleans a successful, safe city.'

The high school dropout left a medical technician job to join the NOPD at age 20 in 1980.

Patrols on foot, horseback and motorcyle led to a rapid rise through the ranks, and he said he became a deputy chief too quickly.

'And quite honestly, I look back on those years now and recognize that I probably tested the system with some immaturity.'

He became Washington State Police superintendent, then Nashville police chief, where he denied a controversy that crime statistics were changed.

His tenure in New Orleans was marked by improved relations with the district attorney, bad cops fired, the federal consent decree, a reorganized crime lab, and targeting gang activity.

But there were big problems as well -- low morale and resignations leading to a critical decrease in police manpower.

And while the murder rate and overall crime rate fell, tragic shootings occurred with a regularity that left the chief as infuriated as the citizens.

'We still have far too many young men killing each other,' Serpas said at a crime scene in 2013.

Serpas said a member of his family has been a New Orleans police officer since 1914. As he stepped down, he remembered some of the high points and some tragedies he will never forget.

'In the last four years we've made great strides towards creating one of the best police forces in the nation. I want to pause for a minute and have us all remember Officer Rodney Thomas and Officer John Passaro.'

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