NEW ORLEANS — What’s the plan to stop violent crime in New Orleans?
That’s what the New Orleans City Council wanted to know Thursday when they brought in New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson Thursday, but they didn’t get the answer they were looking for.
Ferguson said that he couldn’t get into specific details right now, but promised “a proactive plan” is in the works and will be submitted to the council once it is finished and has been sent to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office.
As for what should be in that plan, council members had their own ideas.
Newly elected Councilmember Freddie King asked the chief about recruiting new officers from graduation high school students and even bringing in the National Guard to backup NOPD.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures,” King said.
“That is frightening,” Ferguson responded. “It is outright frightening to have the military on the streets of New Orleans in my opinion … I don’t think that we’re that far gone.”
As for recruiting young officers to help flesh out NOPD’s ranks, Ferguson said giving a badge and a gun to an 18 or 19-year-old would be a bad idea, but was open to bringing in recent graduates to work civilian roles in the department and for the City until they’re old enough to become officers. It is a Louisiana state statute that police officers must be at least 21-years-old, according to Ferguson.
Another idea brought up by Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President JP Morrell was to bring back the NOPD’s TIGER unit. Data compiled by the city showed a drastic uptick in violent crime right after the unit was disbanded in October 2020.
The TIGER unit was formed back in 2016 after a series of armed robberies at restaurants and on the street. The task force concentrated on those violent robberies and was credited with bringing down their number, but the NOPD has fewer officers now than it did then.
“When TIGER was disbanded, I felt that it was the appropriate thing to do,” Ferguson said. “I felt it was in the best interest of the department and it got more officers out on patrols. A lot of those detectives in TIGER are now leading detectives in their districts.”
The chief pointed out what he called “a lack of accountability” for why criminals have become more brazen recently. Ferguson suggested that after their arrest, criminals aren’t being held accountable by the other parts of New Orleans’ criminal justice system, but would not point to any specific problems.
“We have to figure out a way to hold these individuals accountable,” he said. “Right now, it’s about action. It’s not about pointing fingers.”
The City Council will have the chance to follow up on the accountability of the rest of New Orleans criminal justice system on Monday, Jan. 24, during a special council meeting where they will talk to District Attorney Jason Williams, criminal and juvenile court judges, re-entry and rehabilitation groups the First 72+ and VOTE, officials from Mayor Cantrell's office and more.