(Updated 3:07 p.m.)
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas is retiring.
"I want to thank Mayor Landrieu for giving me the opportunity to come back home to New Orleans to lead the fine men and women of the NOPD," said Serpas in a news release from the mayor's office. "This has been a great run under very difficult circumstances. When I came back in 2010, we needed dramatic changes. Together with Mayor Landrieu and the brave men and women of the force, we have turned this department around and laid a strong foundation for the future."
"Making our city safe is my top priority, and I am proud to have worked with Chief Serpas over the past four years as he led this department through very challenging circumstances and turned this department around," Mayor Landrieu said in the statement. "I want to thank Chief Serpas and his family for their service and sacrifice."
Serpas was New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's pick to reform the New Orleans Police Department shortly after Landrieu first took office in the spring of 2010. Under Serpas, the NOPD entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. Homicide rates in the city have fallen in recent years, but the department still took criticism for how it deployed officers amid massive attrition that saw manpower dwindle to some of its lowest numbers in the modern NOPD.
"It's not a surprise to people who've been paying close attention to city hall and NOPD since the election." said Gambit co-owner and political editor Clancy DuBos. "Rumors have been swirling since the mayor was reelected in February that the police chief's days were numbered."
''It's not a surprise to people who have been paying close attention to City Hall and NOPD since the election,'' said Dubos
DuBos said there was tremendous pressure on Chief Serpas.
''There has been pressure from the communities, from elected officials, I think there's a feeling the chief accomplished the things he set out to accomplish, from a technical point of view," said DuBos.
Southern University-New Orleans Criminologist Dr. John Penny says that morale hit very low levels in the department under Serpas.
''Police officers are not willing to take any sort of risk or go beyond what is necessary in order to effectively perform their duties,'' said Penny.
The New Orleans City Council today released the following statement from Council President Stacy Head on Serpas' retirement.
"Today Mayor Landrieu and City officials will announce changes to NOPD leadership, including the departure of Chief Ronal Serpas. Chief Serpas has led NOPD for four years and brought many positive changes, including the implementation of a federal consent decree that continues to drive out corruption and waste from the department. He began a robust recruitment campaign that is well underway today and I am confident will ultimately strengthen our force by attracting the best and brightest. These efforts will lead to continued public safety and a reduction in violent crimes. I am grateful to Chief Serpas for his service and leadership.
"I am pleased to welcome Lt. Michael Harrison, police commander of the 7th District, as our interim police superintendent and pledge my support in the days and months to come. Lt. Harrison is up to the challenge before him and I am confident he will continue to grow our ranks and greatly improve public safety in New Orleans."