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‘I will be all in on everything:' New Orleans confirms Anne Kirkpatrick as PD superintendent

“I want to assure the residents of this wonderful city that I am now a part of your community. This is my home,” Kirkpatrick said


Kirkpatrick, 64, won over Cantrell following a national search.

The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

By Ben Myers
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS — After a contentious search of nearly a year, former Oakland police chief Anne Kirkpatrick was confirmed on Thursday as the next superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department with a mandate to build back the dwindling force and bring down violent crime.

The City Council voted 6-1 to approve Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s pick to permanently replace Shaun Ferguson, who retired in December.

Kirkpatrick, 64, won over Cantrell following a national search that seemed destined to install NOPD veteran Michelle Woodfork, who served as interim chief, into the top job. But it was Kirkpatrick’s experience serving as head of other police departments that ultimately earned her the nod.

With two years left in Cantrell’s second term, Kirkpatrick has a potentially short window to demonstrate success. She’s tasked with boosting the size of the force, which has fewer officers than it’s had in decades, and improving on a recent trend of falling violent crime after it surged over the past two years. She’ll also be operating under the decade-old federal consent decree.

Thursday’s vote came on the heels of a five-hour committee hearing on Oct. 11 in which Kirkpatrick fielded questions and promised to be a fair and independent chief while addressing problems with officer morale.

“I will be all in on everything associated with the safety of this city,” Kirkpatrick said Thursday.

First investigation

She quickly got to work. Hours after her confirmation, she announced that there would be a Public Integrity Bureau investigation into the department’s response to an arson at 4911 America Street a day earlier that killed three children.

Police were notified of a domestic disturbance at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday — six minutes after 911 dispatchers answered a call. But no units were available to respond until 12:15 a.m, when they were dispatched to the home where a fire was raging. Police arrived at 12:20 a.m.

“Three children died in this situation. We do take domestic violence seriously in this city,” Kirkpatrick said at the media briefing. “We have made a decision collectively that the right thing to do is to look at our side of the response associated with the 911 call.”

A historic vote

The City Council vote was a new step in the process of selecting New Orleans’ police superintendent and other mayoral appointees. Voters approved a charter amendment last year that gave the council the power to vote on the choice.

Only District E Council member Oliver Thomas voted against Kirkpatrick’s confirmation. He didn’t comment on his decision.

At the committee hearing last week, Kirkpatrick said she would continue recent improvements in hiring efficiency, noting that the length of time it takes NOPD recruits to complete the hiring process had been cut nearly in half.

She said she would also expand local recruitment to neighborhood centers and the city’s three historically Black colleges.

She also said she would reconsider 12-hour patrol shifts, explore the long-discussed idea of adding new NOPD districts and evaluate options for organizational restructuring.

Kirkpatrick also pledged to work independently of the mayor.

“There is one chief of a department,” Kirkpatrick said. “I will not be micromanaged”

A controversial search

The hearing last week turned contentious when Thomas suggested that Kirkpatrick’s confirmation seemed to be a done deal before any vote had been tallied. He engaged in a brief shouting match with Council President JP Morrell.

Thursday’s vote was relatively quiet by comparison. Thomas remained silent and Morrell read from prepared remarks, repeating earlier criticisms of the search process that resulted in Kirkpatrick’s selection.

“There was not an open invitation extended to the council to participate in the process, and the public certainly was not included,” Morrell said, adding that he nevertheless appreciated Kirkpatrick’s active engagement in the confirmation process.

Cantrell’s nomination of Kirkpatrick was somewhat surprising since the mayor, in early public statements, appeared to prefer Woodfork and gave her the job on an interim basis. The permanent job appeared to be Woodfork’s to lose.

But Cantrell agreed to demands from the City Council and others to conduct a national search, which was conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It drew criticism from some City Council members for what they said was lack of transparency.

Council members were also underwhelmed with six semifinalists selected by the police chief group, including Woodfork, who many assumed would win the nod.

Morrell quipped in July that the process seemed like “an orchestrated effort to make sure that our local middleweight is only fighting lightweights.”

But Cantrell pointedly distanced herself from any notion that the choice was predetermined, and a panel of civic leaders and elected officials recommended against Woodfork, citing her need for more experience.

Meanwhile, Woodfork won over previously skeptical City Council members during her interim tenure. Cantrell’s nomination of Kirkpatrick “really did come as a shock,” Council Vice President Helena Moreno said at the committee hearing.

"(Woodfork) appeared to have been an obvious choice,” Moreno said.

Still, Moreno and other council members acknowledged their task was to evaluate Cantrell’s nominee, and they were generally supportive of Kirkpatrick, who said she will retain Woodfork in a leadership position.

The exception was Thomas, who preferred Woodfork and echoed impassioned public comments that Woodfork was preferable to an outsider.

In a statement issued after Thursday’s vote, Kirkpatrick said she wants to “connect with everyone I possibly can to hear your concerns and ideas.”

“I want to assure the residents of this wonderful city that I am now a part of your community,” Kirkpatrick said. “This is my home.”


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