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‘The rats are...all high': NOPD superintendent advocates for new building amid police station infestation

Rodents have infested police headquarters, scattering feces across desks and feasting on narcotics in the department’s evidence room

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A rodent walks around a device with poisonous bait on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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By Missy Wilkinson
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS — Heavy mold and deteriorating elevators, HVAC units and plumbing are some of the issues that have been plaguing New Orleans Police Department headquarters.

But those aren’t the only problems at aging police facilities around the criminal justice complex near Orleans Avenue and North Broad Street. Don’t forget the vermin, NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick told the City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee on Monday.

“The rats are eating our marijuana,” Kirkpatrick said. “They’re all high.”

Rodents have infested police headquarters, scattering feces across desks and feasting on narcotics in the department’s evidence room, she said. Cockroaches are also abundant.

“It is not just at police headquarters. It is all the districts. The uncleanliness is off the charts,” Kirkpatrick said. “The janitorial cleaning (team) deserves an award trying to clean what is uncleanable.”

Kirkpatrick’s grim assessment of police facilities came as she lobbied to relocate department headquarters to a downtown high rise. The council is considering a 10-year lease on two upper floors of 1615 Poydras Tower, a temporary move while the department maps out future long-term housing, she said.

A motion to authorize the pending lease agreement cleared the committee and goes next to a full council vote. Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño described it as a big step that may be followed by plans to vacate other buildings in the Mid-City justice complex.

“I foresee most of the criminal justice agencies will have to be temporarily housed as we address these old decrepit buildings,” said Montaño, who described the NOPD move as a “Herculean lift.”

He said the 1968 headquarters building has sunken into “dire straits.” Under the terms of the lease agreement, the city would pay total base rent of $7.6 million from its general fund over the 10 years to rent instead.

“It’s a good deal for the city to move here,” said Montaño. He said putting money into repairs to the existing headquarters would cost three times as much.

The NOPD began agitating for a new headquarters before the pandemic, including a $37 million budget request in 2019. But that wish-list item didn’t go far. Kirkpatrick prioritized it after her confirmation as the city’s police chief in October, according to a source privy to the discussions.

The source said Kirkpatrick, a West Coast transplant, was “adamant” about getting new digs for NOPD headquarters and around 400 staffers who work there. Last year, many of them worked from home for weeks or months after the building’s air-conditioning collapsed.

On Monday, Kirkpatrick described the building as a “turn-off” to any potential out-of-state transfers, moreover those who work there.

“It’s not OK, and it’s not OK for people to be treated that way and be called valued,” she said.

Council member Oliver Thomas, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, said the news of marijuana-addled rats was unexpected, but that he’s come to expect surprises in the NOPD’s quest for a new headquarters.

“Everything is a surprise. It was a surprise that headquarters was going to move when we heard about it in the news. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we are surprised,” Thomas said.

Old buildings in New Orleans, like NOPD’s 1960s headquarters at 715 South Broad Street, attract rats, Thomas said.

One NOPD veteran, speaking anonymously, said the headquarters building has been infested with vermin for his nearly two decades on the force, and that it’s not unusual for officers to develop a sneeze or cough after a visit to the moldy building.

“It’s horrible. I don’t think it ever recovered from Katrina, to be honest,” he said. “The basement was full (of flood water). You get a lot of rodents that climb through the walls. Some things you just can’t get to, so there has always been some type of rodent, bugs, rats, mice, whatever.”

Kirkpatrick suggested her outsider perspective helped her see the age-old problem and “extreme disrepair” with fresh eyes.

“She seems to have a low tolerance for rats,” Thomas said. “Just like me.”


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