NEW ORLEANS — The chief of the Slidell Police Department denied insulting New Orleans East in a response to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's criticism of his original comments Saturday.
Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal was quoted in a statement from the police department announcing the arrest of two suspects in connection with a McDonalds shooting on Pontchartrain Drive.
According to the statement, Fandal was responding to residents' fears of rising crime.
“It has been brought to my attention by some of our local residents, as well as comments being made on social media, that people have a perception that crime is rising in Slidell," he is quoted as saying. "People are saying we are becoming the “new, New Orleans East”, and that Slidell Police aren't tough enough on crime…this is all FALSE and absolutely not true."
Underneath the Facebook post from the Slidell Police Department, several people made derogatory comments about New Orleans East.
"We don’t need New Orleans thugs in Slidell!" one comment read. "Throw the book at them! Make an example of them to anyone who thinks of doing anything like this!"
Cantrell posted her response to Facebook a day later, calling Fandal's quote unproductive, unfair and false.
"This kind of sentiment ignores reality and it disrespects the hard work our (NOPD officers have) done, and the real progress that has been made," she said.
In her response, Cantrell referenced the drop in murders in 2018. Last year, 132 people were killed across the city. In 2016, 176 people were killed and in 2017, 157 people were killed, according to NOPD records.
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"New Orleans saw fewer murders last year than we have in a generation," Cantrell wrote. "This year, we are on track for a 30% drop from that historic low. That didn’t happen by accident. The #NOPD has become a national model for constitutional policing and effective reform."
Cantrell said the comment references stereotypes about New Orleans that were no longer true.
"Snide comments that reinforce old, outdated narratives ignore that reality— and do everyone a disservice," she said.
In August, Cantrell released her "generational gun violence reduction plan" aimed at lowering the amount of violent crime in New Orleans.
But Saturday evening, Fandal responded to the criticism with another post on social media, saying he was "not ashamed of myself for standing up for our city and the low crime rate."
Fandal denied saying the quote attributed to him by his own police department, saying "it was taken out of context and twisted."
He also denied insulting Cantrell or the New Orleans Police Department, saying he respected the city's public servants.
"I did not disrespect her or the NOPD," he said in a statement posted to the Slidell Police Department's Facebook page. "In fact, I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve the City of NOLA. Mayor Cantrell and the NOPD are working hard every day to keep crime down in the City of NOLA."
But Fandal did not apologize for the message, instead referencing Slidell's "low crime rate."
"New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that I should be ashamed of myself for addressing the negative comments by people calling Slidell the “new, New Orleans East,'" he said. "I am not ashamed of myself for standing up for our city and the low crime rate. The fact of the matter is that crime in Slidell is DOWN, not up. Our police department and our citizens do a damn good job keeping crime down and solve rates up!"
But the Northshore official appeared to hold out an olive branch at the end of his statement, saying he agreed with Cantrell on one thing:
"We should work together and not against each other. I will be more than happy to sit down with Mayor Cantrell to discuss this further. Let’s make something good come of this!"
Cyndi Nguyen, councilwoman for New Orleans East, released a statement in support of Cantrell Saturday night, saying her district was heading in the "right direction" under the administration:
"As prospective leaders in our community, we should always come to the workspace fostering collaboration and promoting each other. In that spirit, the City of New Orleans, as well as New Orleans East, are heading in the right direction. We are working to address our challenges by implementing innovative and community-focused strategies, investing in public safety, and creating job opportunities. Under the leadership of Mayor Cantrell and Police Chief Ferguson, crime is decreasing in New Orleans. We will continue to stay focus on putting our families first."
A City of New Orleans spokesperson declined to comment further on the matter Saturday night.
Ed. Note: This story has been updated to include the response from Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal to Cantrell's criticism of a quote attributed to him.