Tulane University named local law enforcement veteran Kirk Bouyelas as its new chief of police Thursday, exactly six months after a WWL-TV investigation of improper use of force and alleged cover-ups forced the resignation of the department’s previous chief.
Tulane President Mike Fitts promised a national search to replace University Police Chief Joey Bishop on April 4, just as WWL-TV was about to air its damning report.
At the time, Fitts said the search would be performed by Spelman and Johnson, “a highly respected firm with expertise in identifying the country’s most accomplished leaders in law enforcement.”
But Tulane didn’t end up going far to replace Bishop, hiring Bouyelas from the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, where he was chief of investigations since 2014.
“In Kirk, we believe we have found an extraordinary law enforcement leader who will dedicate himself and his vast years of experience to keeping our community of students, faculty and staff safe,” Fitts said in a joint statement with Tulane’s Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer Patrick Norton.
"The national search identified several exemplary candidates for the chief of police position," added Tulane spokesman Mike Strecker. "Chief Bouyelas was selected because of his extensive law enforcement experience, his intimate knowledge of the Tulane community through his years as commander of the (NOPD) 2nd District and his approachable leadership style which we believe is a great fit for a university community."
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro praised Bouyelas for his dedicated service helping build prosecutors’ cases and protecting witnesses.
Before that, Bouyelas spent 31 years with the New Orleans Police Department, rising to the rank of deputy chief and leading the Investigations and Support Bureau and the Operations Bureau.
He takes over a Tulane University Police Department that was shaken by rampant complaints about Bishop’s leadership team earlier this year.
A WWL-TV investigation in April showed Tulane officers used a Taser on a handcuffed suspect but were cleared by Bishop; the school learned from WWL-TV that it hired one of its commanders after she had resigned from NOPD under investigation; and a deputy chief changed documents in a file to remove supervisors’ findings that an officer had improperly slammed a crime victim in the street while patrolling off-campus.
After WWL-TV notified Tulane it would be airing its story, the university announced the resignations of Bishop and the deputy chief, Shan Kirk, and fired the commander, Capt. Angela Davis.
During his own NOPD tenure, Bouyelas was in charge of a unit that came under fire in 2014 -- the Special Victims Section, also known as the sex crimes unit. It was investigated by the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office and blasted for failing to follow up on a large percentage of cases.
A Public Integrity Bureau investigation later found the officers’ performance wasn’t as bad as the IG’s report made it seem because they later found files they couldn’t locate when the IG was investigating.
The internal review concluded the unit suffered from a lack of leadership, but the PIB report only implicated the unit’s direct commanders, not higher-ranking leaders like Bouyelas.