The deficiencies in policing have made headlines in Louisiana as well as around the nation, but how does policing get better?

A large part of change is the long process of training and imbuing officers with an ethical approach to their difficult tasks. For the first time since the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has honored individuals with its prestigious Gary Hayes Award, a law enforcement officer from Louisiana has received the recognition. New Orleans Police Department's chief of detectives Paul Noel has been recognized for his work to prevent good police officers from doing bad things.

He has been recognized with this national honor because he’s worked with others to create programs to teach New Orleans officers to intervene when they see colleagues breaking, or about to break, agency policies or rules. The city police department has responded to federally mandated police reforms, and Noel has been an important part of that positive response. He helped with the design, implementation and instruction of Ethical Policing Is Courageous, or EPIC. The program includes role-playing and training videos to help officers and supervisors recognize potential problems so they can stop them. An important part of the training is giving officers the right approaches, and language, to use with their colleagues.

It's not the first time PERF has honored Louisiana police leadership: In 2001, PERF’s Leadership Award, essentially a lifetime achievement recognition, went to New Orleans Police Superintendent Richard Pennington. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, formerly the New Orleans police superintendent, is now president of PERF, an association that includes thousands of law enforcement members from agencies, academics, the federal government and others with interests in criminal justice issues and policing from across the nation and some other countries.

Noel is joining a prestigious group. Hayes Award recipients have included some nationally prominent law enforcement officials, people we have heard on national radio and television broadcasts, including current Philadelphia Police Chief Danielle Outlaw; former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; former New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton and former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

Using that work as a foundation, Noel worked with NOPD and Georgetown University to create Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement, or ABLE. The George Floyd murder by Minneapolis police in May 2020 led to demonstrations and protests; one solution is using ABLE to make policing better. Police departments in Boston, Baltimore, Denver, Philadelphia and elsewhere have adopted the ABLE approach, making New Orleans a trendsetter.

Former PERF President Scott Thomson, a retired Camden County, New Jersey, police chief, nominated Noel for the award. “Paul’s most significant accomplishments are in his efforts to bring meaningful culture change to his profession,” he said in a statement released by PERF. “He partnered with local pastors, social workers, and community members to design a community collaboration focused on victims’ families and preventing gun violence. He transformed NOPD by leading the creation of data analytics and data-driven management. He works with law enforcement agencies across the country to reduce mistakes, prevent misconduct, promote health and wellness, and deliver sustainable cultural change to policing across the nation.”

That’s high and worthy praise.

The Hayes Award is important recognition for Noel and the NOPD colleagues he’s helped do the right thing. More important, however, is that New Orleans has seen fewer questionable or clearly inappropriate incidents. Thanks to Noel, citizens benefit from his desire to see his department serve citizens and visitors with behavior adapted by others.