For the third time since he became chief of the New Orleans Police Department, Michael Harrison has named a new commander for the Special Victims Section, once more shaking up an outfit that has come under fire both from advocates for victims of sexual assault and from the city’s inspector general.
Lt. Bruce Haney was tapped on Sept. 27 to take over the post, which oversees both the Sex Crimes Unit and the Child Abuse Unit, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said.
Haney replaced Janeiro Sanders, who himself took the job from Lt. Gervais Allison in March.
“The chief is constantly re-evaluating all the levels of leadership across the department,” Gamble said. “In this case, he’s taken a personal interest in making sure the reforms we’ve put in place in the Special Victims Section stick.”
The NOPD never announced the leadership change, which was made to a division that has been in the public eye since a scathing November report from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux questioned its detectives’ investigations. The change was reported by nola.com on Tuesday.
“We make transfers every other Friday, and we don’t have specific announcements for every one of them,” Gamble said.
Sanders has been transferred to serve as a platoon lieutenant in Uptown’s 2nd District.
Federal monitors overseeing the reform agreement the NOPD reached with the U.S. Department of Justice questioned whether the last leadership shift in the Special Victims Section, in March, would risk creating turmoil inside the crucial but demanding unit.
“While NOPD very well may have valid reasons for making the change, one should not think such changes come without cost in terms of consistency, energy and progress. As we said last month, the monitoring team continues to be concerned over ongoing management inconsistency,” the monitors wrote in April. “We are hopeful this most recent change will constitute a lasting fix.”
That change proved to be far from lasting, but at least one reform advocate offered measured approval of the chief’s most recent leader for the helm of the Special Victims Section.
“I think it’s more important to get the exact right person in there, even if it requires more transitions,” Tulane University law professor Tania Tetlow said.
“The chief has worked very closely with advocates on all the reforms in the Sex Crimes Unit, including the effort to get the best possible personnel in there,” she said. “There are some really great officers who just aren’t the best suited to this particular work.”