New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison has shaken up the leadership overseeing an attempted overhaul of the NOPD’s long-beleaguered sex crimes unit, only months after he retooled it in the wake of a blistering report by New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office.
Gone are both Cmdr. Darryl Albert, who is moving to the Crime Lab, and Lt. Gervais Allison, whom Harrison named in September to head the Special Victims Section that encompasses the sex crimes, domestic violence and child abuse units, with about 16 detectives altogether.
Harrison named Allison to the post in September as Quatrevaux was preparing to issue a report that went public in November, detailing the failure of five detectives to document any follow-up investigations into hundreds of reported sex crimes over a three-year span.
Harrison has named Cmdr. Doug Eckert to head the Criminal Investigations Division in Albert’s stead. Jenerio Sanders, a lieutenant, will command the Special Victims Section.
Sanders will report to Eckert, who reports to Deputy Chief Randy Mushatt, head of the Investigation and Support Bureau. The changes were effective March 8.
NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble suggested Harrison was impatient with the pace of change in the sex crimes unit.
“He’s looked at the progress since he made the initial assessment. He decided he wanted to move in a different direction with the leadership,” Gamble said. “The chief is pleased with the direction we’re going, but he wants to do more, and he wants it to go faster.”
The move seemed to mark another step down for Albert, who was elevated by former NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas to deputy superintendent in 2011 and who oversaw all of the NOPD’s patrol divisions — a post widely considered the No. 2 spot in the department.
With Serpas’ resignation and Harrison’s rise to the chief’s spot in August, 6th District Cmdr. Robert Bardy took over that role and Albert was reassigned to head the Investigation and Support Bureau, overseeing the Homicide Division and the Special Victims Section.
Gamble said work continues to respond to the IG’s report, including both a review of potential disciplinary actions against the five detectives, and possibly their former supervisors, and a review of 320 cases handled by those detectives before they all were reassigned.
The work of the task force, led by 2nd District Cmdr. Paul Noel, could take a while, Gamble said, as it slogs through a pile of cases to decide which need reinvestigation.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ll have an announcement on the completion of the initial disciplinary investigation more quickly than the final results of what the special task force is doing,” Gamble said.
A determination by the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau on possible disciplinary action is expected before year’s end, Gamble said. Harrison has suggested that criminal charges could follow.
Gamble also said the department is working to embed sex crimes detectives in the Family Justice Center, a multiple-agency locus for victim services where the NOPD’s domestic violence detectives already sit.
Mary Claire Landry, the center’s director, said the early signs with the new regime have been “extremely positive.”
“I have full faith that he’s going to turn this around,” she said of Eckert.
“We don’t want to lose victims during this process. We understand there’s major problems, but we’re very committed to making sure we’re following up on the current cases as much as possible,” Landry added. “But there’s been a tremendous amount of (NOPD staff) replacements. And so our hope is that none of these (new cases) fell through the cracks. But it wouldn’t be surprising if some did.”
Gary Estwick contributed to this story. Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.