Kind of like a certain other chief executive making news these days, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell can be a go-with-her-gut sort of politician.
That’s certainly what Cantrell did when she responded to Police Superintendent Michael Harrison’s sudden resignation to lead the Baltimore police force by naming his successor less than one week later. Cantrell’s choice, Shaun Ferguson, is a career NOPD cop who rose through the ranks, just like Harrison. He’s got an impressive resume, having most recently headed the department’s education and training division. The choice has been greeted with early praise, even if her process hasn’t.
Cantrell, by all appearances, chose Ferguson without seeking much outside input. She didn’t form a search committee, didn’t ask Ferguson to meet with stakeholders, didn’t even name him as an interim at first, as former Mayor Mitch Landrieu had done with Harrison.
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This sort of vetting process would have given community leaders a chance to quiz Ferguson on his management philosophy, his take on the ongoing federal civil rights consent decree, and the areas where he sees the need for continuity versus change. Presumably he and Cantrell discussed those things. The rest of us will just have to find out as we go.
To be honest, Cantrell’s gut hasn’t always steered her wisely. Her attempt to bring back former Superintendent Warren Riley to serve in a high-level administration job was so poorly received that she wound up revoking the offer. He’s now suing.
Unlike Riley, who served under former Mayor Ray Nagin, Ferguson isn’t raising any red flags. He’s a known quantity, both throughout the force and to Cantrell herself, from when the police district he headed overlapped with the City Council district she represented. Everyone with a stake in New Orleans will be rooting for him to do well.
And given her decision-making process, how Ferguson does will reflect directly back on Cantrell. None of this “the buck stops with everybody” nonsense going around up in Washington. This is one choice the mayor absolutely owns.
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