Ben Horwitz portrait

Ben Horwitz, provided photo

The New Orleans Police Department’s director of analytics — who is credited with building a tech-driven crime analysis team within the city's previously low-tech police force — is stepping down from his post and headed to the private sector. It is the latest of several recent high-profile departures from the department.

Benjamin Horwitz recently informed his supervisors that he is going into business with crime analyst Jeff Asher, now a City Hall public safety consultant, who previously worked for the NOPD and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Asher and Horwitz on Wednesday formed a company named AH Datalytics, state business records show.

Horwitz, 34, said his exit from the NOPD is motivated by a desire to bring some of his work there to other organizations across the region and country. 

"It's been an honor and a privilege to work for the New Orleans Police Department and be a part of an incredible transformation" associated with a 2013 federal consent decree that mandated sweeping reforms, Horwitz said. "I love New Orleans and am committed to improving our community ... with this next step." 

With a master’s degree in public policy, information systems and management from Carnegie Mellon University, Horwitz joined the NOPD in 2014 as a civilian employee tasked with helping implement the consent decree.

Heading the data analysis unit since 2016, Horwitz oversaw the creation of a vastly upgraded computer system to measure police performance and built a team that helped use digital analysis tools to catch violent criminals.

The computer system, known as Management Analytics for Excellence, or MAX, measured the performance of officers and supervisors in a way that couldn’t be done before; police said it has been key to improving the selection of department leaders.

Meanwhile, Horwitz's crime data analysts collaborated closely with investigators across the NOPD, including those on a specialized squad known as the TIGER team that focused on working long-term cases to arrest repeat violent offenders.

The TIGER team initially focused on serial armed robber and carjackers but has since targeted suspected killers. The department highlighted that unit’s work as an important factor in the sharp drop in violent crimes in 2018, which saw a 47-year low in murders in New Orleans.

Part of the MAX tool NOPD implemented under Horwitz is available for public uses. Citizens can go online and see how many officers are on the streets, how long it is taking them to respond to 911 calls, and how many crimes have been reported, among other things. All of that fulfilled or even exceeded the consent decree's requirements for transparency and public accountability.

Horwitz’s April 26 departure will be at least the third time that a top civilian official at NOPD has left the force since last month.

Danny Murphy, the deputy superintendent in charge of overseeing compliance with the consent decree, and Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Melancon have both gone to work for former NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, who recently became the top cop in Baltimore.

Replacements for Murphy and Melancon were announced during a wave of command-staff changes unveiled in late March.

Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Thursday it is natural for employees to secure new opportunities for themselves after helping the NOPD implement the consent decree and, in the process, burnish the force’s reputation. But he said he is sure the department will maintain the progress of the last several years despite the departures.

“Culture-wise, we have people that can step up,” said Ferguson, who took over as superintendent in January. “The rest of the team is still there.”

The NOPD is already advertising the vacancy at the head of the analytics unit. Ferguson said he is confident there are both internal and external candidates who can pick up where Horwitz left off and expand the unit’s capabilities.

“We wish Ben well, but this creates opportunities for others,” said Ferguson.


Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.