Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration Monday released the following regarding the departure of the mayor’s hand-picked police chief, Ronal Serpas. Serpas has served as head of the NOPD since Landrieu first took office in May 2010.
New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Ronal W. Serpas, Ph. D., announced today that he will be retiring after more than 30 years of public service. Serpas was hired as NOPD Superintendent in May 2010.
“I want to thank Mayor Landrieu for giving me the opportunity to come back home to New Orleans to lead the fine men and women of the NOPD,” said Serpas. “This has been a great run under very difficult circumstances. When I came back in 2010, we needed dramatic changes. Together with Mayor Landrieu and the brave men and women of the force, we have turned this department around and laid a strong foundation for the future.”
He continued, “We began instituting the reforms of the consent decree, improved training and hiring standards, and modernized the department’s facilities and equipment. Murder is down significantly. After Mayor Landrieu was re-elected, after my 34 years of service, and my decision to retire, we both recognized that it was time to hand the reigns over to new leadership in the department. I will be retiring to pursue other opportunities. As a native New Orleanian, there is nothing I am more committed to doing than ensuring the success of this department and the safety of our city, and I can assure you that I will continue to be involved in that fight.”
Mayor Landrieu thanked Serpas for his dedication to the city and for his efforts to build a foundation for the future for the New Orleans Police Department.
“Making our city safe is my top priority, and I am proud to have worked with Chief Serpas over the past four years as he led this department through very challenging circumstances and turned this department around,” Mayor Landrieu said. “I want to thank Chief Serpas and his family for their service and sacrifice. Chief Serpas inherited a department in disarray with several federal investigations and deep budget problems. There was no crime lab and rape kits collected dust on shelves. We’ve made significant progress and have begun to fix many of the fundamentals. Most significantly, through NOLA FOR LIFE, we have overseen a significant reduction in murder. I am confident that with this foundation, we will have success in transforming our department and making New Orleans a safer place to live, work and visit.”
Since Mayor Landrieu took office and Chief Serpas was appointed, homicides have dropped to a nearly 30-year low under the NOLA FOR LIFE strategy to reduce murders. At the same time, overall crime has remained flat compared to the same period of time before Serpas’ tenure, all while experiencing decreasing manpower and an increase in population and visitor numbers. As part of NOLA FOR LIFE, NOPD beefed up its Homicide Unit and created a Multi- Agency Gang Unit in partnership with federal and state law enforcement agencies to focus additional resources on the groups of individuals who continue to distribute drugs and commit acts of violence in our neighborhoods.
Under Serpas, the NOPD improved the rate of convictions from felony arrests by better coordinating with the District Attorney, and it significantly increased the use of summonses in lieu of arresting low level state misdemeanor and municipal offenders to reduce the strain on the jail population and to keep officers in neighborhoods. NOPD also improved acceptance rates and clearance rates. In addition, Chief Serpas implemented several measures to improve the NOPD’s relationship with the community, including creating Community Coordinating Seargent positions in each district to work on nuisance issues, build formal communication channels with neighborhoods and help rebuild trust with the department. As part of the consent decree, Police Community Advisory Boards (PCAB) were also created.
Serpas implemented tough accountability standards for employee misconduct and worked with various partners to clear the backlog of rape kits and ballistics and DNA testing. He implemented the use of state- of-the-art software programs and strategies to deploy and realign police resources geographically in the NOPD for the first time in more than 40 years, which also included the use of new technology to revamp the NOPD’s COMSTAT process. Chief Serpas led the NOPD during an unrivaled series of major sporting and cultural events held in New Orleans including Super Bowl XLVII, NCAA Mens’ and Women’s Final Fours, and several safe and successful Mardi Gras celebrations. He also led the department through tropical storms and Hurricane Isaac.
Chief Serpas has participated and contributed on the national and international level of police leadership, serving as the Second Vice President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The IACP is the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization of police executives, with over 21,000 members representing 100 countries.
Prior to returning to New Orleans, Serpas served as Chief of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department for six years, where he oversaw a reduction in violent crime each year under his tenure. Prior to that, he served as Chief of Police for the Washington State Patrol.
Prior to his tenure in Washington, Chief Serpas began his career in June 1980 with the NOPD rising through all civil service ranked positions, and was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Police and the first Chief of Operations in October 1996, charged with implementing wide scale organization restructuring, initiating the Compstat model in the NOPD and leading all patrol, investigative, special response units and community-policing functions. He was the #2 in command under former NOPD Superintendent Richard Pennington. Serpas, a native New Orleanian, received his Doctorate in Urban Studies, with an emphasis in Urban Crime, from the University of New Orleans in May 1998. In addition to Chief Serpas’ law enforcement career, he has served as an Assistant Professor, Extraordinary Faculty, of Criminal Justice at Loyola University New Orleans, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses from 1993 to 2001.
Upon his departure, current Seventh District Commander Michael Harrison will be appointed as Interim Superintendent.
Mayor Landrieu said, “Commander Harrison has demonstrated strong, community-focused leadership during his tenure as Seventh District Commander. During this transition, I am confident he will be able to scale the focus on building trust with the community citywide to improve public safety.”
Commander Harrison has been with the NOPD for over 23 years. Harrison has served as Commander of Seventh District, overseeing police services for eastern New Orleans since January 2012. Under his watch, the 7th District experienced crime reductions in 2012 and 2013. He helped craft and testified in favor of a piece of legislation to enable better enforcement of prostitution and solicitation, which was a major problem in the district. From January 2011 to 2012, he served as Commander of the Special Investigations Division in which he managed the narcotics, vice, criminal intelligence and gang enforcement units of NOPD. He began with the NOPD in 1991, serving in various capacities and districts. He spent nearly a decade within the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau. Prior to joining the NOPD, Harrison served eight years with the Louisiana Air National Guard. He received a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix in 2006 and a Master of Criminal Justice from Loyola University in 2008. He is a member of IACP and the Police Executive Research Forum. Harrison, a resident of Algiers, also serves as an ordained minister and the overseer of ministry operations at City of Love Church in New Orleans.
Harrison said, “I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to help lead this department through this transition. I believe policing is one of the noblest professions. The men and women of this department put their lives on the line each and every day. Public safety is at the core of our city, intersecting with quality of life, education, economic development and community pride, so we must continue to work to improve the relationship between NOPD and our community and will continue to make our streets safer.”
At upcoming budgeting community meetings in each City Council district, Mayor Landrieu will seek input on important characteristics for the next Police Chief.