New NOPD Superintendent Harrison Has Hands Full From Start!!
Promotions are generally a good thing, except when you are promoted straight into a hornets’ nest. That is the case with new Police Superintendent Michael Harrison. He faces federal consent decrees with the police department and the jail, crime is up, 911 response times have lengthened considerably, staff morale is super low and the force is losing an officer every three days. The entire department has shrunk by one third since 2010, a frightening indictment that things have gone from bad to worse. The force has roughly 1,090 members right now. The mayor and Harrison want 1,600 officers. That’s a huge difference, and it means there’s not enough staff anywhere to cover any precinct thoroughly. Criminals are aware of the lack of police coverage, and crime is up considerably in most categories. That’s cause and effect.
A recent anonymous survey of nearly 50% of the department by federal court monitors discovered that a majority of officers feel they wouldn’t be satisfied with police services if they lived in their district. More than half described police services in New Orleans as either fair or poor.
Harrison was born in New Orleans, making him a local product all the way. Not only is he the number one cop, he’s a professor, a military vet, family man, and minister. That’s an interesting resume. Harrison took over as interim chief in August. On October 14, 2014, he garnered the superintendent job for himself. However, crime is generally on the rise in New Orleans, and recruiting is difficult with all the black eyes the force has earned the last few years. Many cops have been indicted for big and small crimes and many are now serving hard time.
The further you look into NOPD, the worse it looks. However, Harrison has a plan that seems to me to be reasonable. He plans to target the city’s gangs. Improve community-police relations. He’s met with church and community groups. He wants to fix broken community relations and forge new relationships. I like all these signs, Harrison is starting off fast and in the right direction.
In fact he’s doing much more to strengthen the department. He’s shuffled the command staff. According to Captain Michael Glasser, the president of the Police Association of New Orleans, Harrison is a lot more sensitive to what’s going on in the department with respect to the cops themselves. He doesn’t think Harrison expects to solve these entrenched problems overnight, since they weren’t created overnight.
Donovan Licaccari, spokesman for the local Fraternal Order of the Police lodge, says the rank and file mostly welcomed the shift from former Superintendent Serpas, who was seen as autocratic.
Harrison hopes to stem the tide of officer resignations by providing them with new patrol cars, improved equipment, and career development opportunities. A number of police stations are being renovated. He supports the mayor’s proposal for a 5% pay increase, though he’s aware most officers haven’t received a raise since 2007 and think 5% is too little too late.