The New Orleans Police Department did not put a foot wrong after those two visitors from Boston were savagely attacked on Bienville Street in the French Quarter.

All four suspects were in jail within days. A grateful city salutes the cops. We blast them when they abuse their powers, so let us not stint in appreciation when they remove dangerous criminals from the streets. Without them, chaos would descend.

Don't go overboard, Gill, I hear you saying. But NOPD chief Michael Harrison will endorse those sentiments.

Police work always requires a degree of courage, but sometimes that is not enough. Now and again, a case will come along to test their mettle to the max. The ultimate thrill is when brilliant detective work cracks a baffling case.

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That is what happened in this case, Harrison seemed to suggest once all the suspects were behind bars. But let us not all go overboard and put their work on a par with Sherlock Holmes. If Harrison can wax so triumphant over what was, in reality, a straightforward operation, he will have no superlatives left when a complex challenge comes along.

“We made a promise; we kept a promise,” Harrison said. "Our officers have been very, very proactive. We're not waiting for the fight to come to us; we're taking our enforcement and our fight to the criminal element.” He had a warning for any others who might contemplate committing similar assaults. “There are consequences to your actions. If crime is the life you choose, I'm going to see to it that prison is the price you pay."

Wow! These were words to make citizens feel secure and strike terror into the hearts of criminals. Anyone hearing them must have yearned to know more about the ingenious techniques that enabled Harrison's sleuths to track down these suspects and condemn anyone following their example to a similar fate.

This could not have been one of those up-to-the-minute cases solved by forensic scientists. The CCTV cameras that peep out all over the French Quarter obviously played their part, but otherwise, this could not have been high-tech crime-solving. Not enough time had elapsed for DNA evidence, say, to come back from the lab.

It seemed therefore that what Harrison termed “proactive” police work must have been the old-fashioned variety — lots of shoe leather, stoolies met in dark corners and flashes of inspiration from the world-weary denizens of the detectives' bureau before the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Alas, this was not film noir. Reality was altogether more humdrum and drab. Not only were these as dumb a bunch of young thugs as New Orleans has produced, but two of them gave themselves up and fingered the other two.

If Harrison expected us to believe this was an investigative triumph, he must think we are dumb as they are. The case may indeed show other hoodlums that there are consequences to their actions, but it also shows that the surest route to the slammer is to volunteer a confession. Sure, the cops wrapped up the case quickly, but they must have regarded this as a routine collar.

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As Harrison himself noted, some 50 officers were on duty in the area when the unfortunate Bostonians, in town for a Unitarian convention, were set upon from behind, with one of them suffering brain injuries that doctors initially feared might prove fatal. The attack was captured by closed-circuit cameras, and NOPD released the footage next day.

One day after that, Dejuan Paul, having seen a video that appears to show him striking the most grievous blow of the assault, 'fessed up to a pastor, who urged him to turn himself in to the cops, which he promptly did.

A day later, Joshua Simmons followed suit, and Harrison was able to announce he knew the names of the other culprits and urged them to turn surrender also. They didn't, but could not expect to remain at large very long.

Police soon spotted Rashaad Piper on Conti Street, a mere five blocks from the scene of the attack, and then, acting on a Crimestoppers' tip, picked up Nicholas Pogozelski not far away on Tchoupitoulas Street.

That was where the case produced a final challenge. Few police reports require such careful spelling.

Email James Gill at jgill@theadvocate.com.

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