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Cantrell cancels trip to Singapore, instead staying here to deal with police issues

The mayor of New Orleans was on WBOK radio defending her trips, talking about police 'separations' and feeling disrespected in her job.

NEW ORLEANS — *This story includes reporting from Mike Perlstein on Cantrell's recent travel

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell will not be traveling to the World Cities Summit Singapore at the end of this month and instead she will be staying in the city to deal with what she said was an issue with morale in the police department as people continue to leave the force.

“I wanted to stay here and get before the men and women of the police department who felt very degraded this week,” said Cantrell on WBOK radio Friday morning with Oliver Thomas. "I'm not in Singapore because I'm here tending to the men and women of the police department."

Cantrell said that she is very concerned with what she called “continuing separations” from the force. She said that there had been 10 of those this week alone. The force's dwindling numbers have been well documented as the department is below 1,000 officers at the moment and NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson highlighted an officer this week who left during his shift. 

Cantrell said she had been attending some of the district meetings this week and officers were asking her, that, given recent publicity and media reports, "why would anyone want to come work here."

Cantrell’s decision not to make the trip to Singapore comes among mounting criticism over her trips out of the country. A trip to Singapore would have been her third trip out of the country in five weeks, and sixth outside of the state in 2022, according to city records obtained by WWL-TV.

Cantrell went on WBOK radio to discuss a myriad of topics though just the day before she would not address reporters who went to an event held by the mayor Thursday.

She said that despite her cancelling this trip, she, in her position as mayor, is the face of the city and she would continue to travel to promote its culture.

"We're an international city," she said. "The return for travel is greater than the expense... "When I step outside of the city of New Orleans, we're on the front page of the news there... and what that does is drive the local economy as well."

Cantrell also talked about what she referred to as disrespect for her and her position, alluding to some recent public rifts with other council members.

"It's taken me aback, I must say. It's disrespect and respect is due a dog."

The travel documents obtained by WWL-TV through a public records request are incomplete, but show expenses that include $9,810 for airfare alone to travel to Ascona, Switzerland to sign a “Sister City” agreement and attend a jazz festival.

Her lodging and meal expenses for that trip were not provided, nor was her travel party. But on previous out-of-state trips, Cantrell was accompanied by as many as five city employees.

For example, during her trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. in January, the city also paid for Deputy Chief of Staff Jabarie Walker, Intergovernmental Relations Director Arthur Walton, former Director of Strategic Initiatives Joshua Cox, Executive Counsel Clifton Davis and, for protection, Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Vappie.

Records for Cantrell’s trip to Switzerland were incomplete and did not show the full cost, but she was accompanied by Kristy Johnson for “executive protection," and Security Social Media Raven Frederick, who posted a variety of colorful videos on Instagram of the mayor at various cultural events.

While Cantrell would not address reporters – or even allow them in the same room – during an unrelated media event Thursday, Communications Director Gregory Joseph defended the mayor’s frequent flyer habits.

“It doesn't matter where the mayor is, whether she's here or whether she's on an international trip bringing the culture of the city and all the genius that we have to other parts of the world, we're always focused on doing the job of the mayor of the city of New Orleans,” Joseph said. “When she travels, when she takes the city with her, she's going on city taxpayer funding. And it's very important for her to be doing these jobs.”

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