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In New Orleans, a change in police command

10 months ago August 19, 2014 Aug 19, 2014 Tuesday, August 19 2014 Tuesday, August 19, 2014 2:31:12 AM CDT in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Post-Katrina scandals have abated and the homicide rate dropped markedly last year in New Orleans. But violent crime still plagues the city and challenges abound for the person who ultimately replaces police chief Ronal Serpas.

The city native and career police officer who took over the department in 2010 announced his retirement Monday at a news conference with Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He's joining the faculty at Loyola University of New Orleans' Criminal Justice Department.

For now, at least, his duties fall to Michael Harrison, the commander of the city's 7th police district. Harrison's biography includes nearly 24 years with the police department, and a stint in the Louisiana Air National Guard. He's excited for the opportunity.

"I am fully committed to this task," Harrison explained. "We as a department are fully committed to making every neighborhood in New Orleans a safe neighborhood."

Serpas leaves office with several big issues at hand. The department is investigating mass shootings in both the French Quarter and Lower 9th Ward, as well as an officer-involved shooting.

During his four years at the helm, there was a significant drop in the number of murders in the Crescent City, but he took heat from his own officers for making changes to disciplinary policies and off-duty work. Some even quit over the changes, leading to a cop shortage. Residents believe that's a major problem that Harrison needs to address immediately.

"When you've got police on the street, the prevent the crime before it happens," opines Bill Murphy. "They make people think that they don't want to do the crime."

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says NOPD is in the middle of reforming from "top to bottom".

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