Highly touted as the savior of NOPD, Ronal Serpas is retiring as the police chief of New Orleans.
Questions about Serpas’ leadership of the New Orleans Police Department have continued, and while the murder rate is down, Chief Serpas did not appear to have the confidence of his police department or the confidence of the public. Even if he was doing to best job under difficult circumstances – a police chief cannot be effective in an environment of distrust.
Chief Serpas took over a police department that had issues of trust and honesty, and in recent months citizens have witnessed too many officers arrested and suspended for violating laws they were sworn to uphold.
NOPD Chief Serpas out - talking about it this afternoon 1-4pm - in for Angela on WWL
The growing perception was that the overall strategy of the NOPD was not working, and combined with the loss of officers to retirement and the failure to attract an adequate number of new officers – the police chief appeared to be an ineffective leader and to many – an incompetent leader.
Many of the problems with the NOPD were the outcome of a culture of corruption that had been festering for decades, and any expectations for a police chief to instantly turn the department around were simply unrealistic.
However, when a chief has had time to effect change and change is not realized – then a change in leadership is inevitable. I respected the position Serpas was in as NOPD’s Police Chief – but I was not naïve to the ongoing concerns about his strategy.
New Orleans is not an easy city to police. The French Quarter/Mardi Gras mentality that is a deep-rooted part of our culture presents law enforcement with challenges not faced by law enforcement in other cities. There is an allowance for partying and a degree of debauchery that has always been an acceptable aspect of our culture. In most cases, the partying and debauchery are innocent enough, but it sometimes clouds a thin line between what is and is not acceptable for citizens, as well as for the police.
To his credit, Chief Serpas and his department did track down and arrest many perpetrators, and the revolving door of the justice system at large should not reflect in a negative way on the police department.
It is also important to point out that there are countless police officers who are following the rules and risking their lives daily to protect and serve the citizens and visitors of New Orleans, and any loss of confidence in the police chief should not be visited on those dedicated men and women of the NOPD.
Morale was low within the department, and only time will tell us whether that was the fault of the police chief or changes in what society will no longer tolerate.
The faith and trust in a police chief is crucial to every city. We have all witnessed what appears to be ineffective leadership from the police chief in Ferguson, MO.
As I have written recently, the community can do more than police in terms of reducing crime by turning over vital information about crimes and criminals in their neighborhoods. It is impossible to expect police officers to be everywhere a violent altercation erupts. But the important trusting relationship between law enforcement and the community starts and ends with the chief of police.
Let us hope that our new police chief understands New Orleans, and understands what needs to be done to instill a more trusting relationship with law enforcement, and that our new chief wins the confidence of the officers on the force and creates a new desire to become part of the NOPD.
Many of the problems within the NOPD have been part of the department’s culture and all of our hopes must be accompanied by the reality that long-term problems will not be solved overnight.
A new police chief will not solve the problems that lead to senseless crime. Those problems can only be solved by demanding responsible behavior of the citizens of the community – from responsible parenting to understanding the consequences of negative behavior.
If we expect the police department to do its job – then we have to do our job.