Interim NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick talks with members of the New Orleans City Council during her confirmation hearing at city hall in New Orleans, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune)

Anne Kirkpatrick could become New Orleans' top cop at the City Council's next meeting on Thursday.

I’ve expressed concerns about the city's Home Rule Charter being changed to give the council veto authority over who should work for Mayor LaToya Cantrell and future mayors. I've had issues with the council's demands regarding the search for a new police chief. And, I've been uneasy with some aspects of Cantrell's search process.

But I'm ready for this to end.

The council should confirm Kirkpatrick as the next permanent police chief.


Interim NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick talks with members of the New Orleans City Council during her confirmation hearing at city hall in New Orleans, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune)

According to recent NOPD statistics, violent crime is down. We need it to go down more.

Last week was the first confirmation hearing after New Orleans voters overwhelmingly granted the council members that authority. The charter proposition didn't include guidelines, so there's no precedent. The council's governmental affairs committee had an agenda, but the hearing was pretty much a free-flowing process.

The committee voted to send Kirkpatrick's nomination to the full council without a recommendation, but the hearing was more coronation than confirmation. After Kirkpatrick's presentation and explanations, there was a negotiation. Council members made clear their expectations.

If Kirkpatrick is confirmed, they want her to be a crime-fighting partner — and they want former Interim Chief Michelle Woodfork, a homegrown finalist for the job, to be a high-ranking deputy chief with consonant pay.

Woodfork wasn't always the council's favorite for the top job, but she won them over during her interim stint.

District C council member Freddie King III asked Kirkpatrick about Woodfork’s potential role at NOPD. Kirkpatrick said she wants Woodfork on her team — if Woodfork wants to be on the team — but Kirkpatrick offered no details as to what that meant. King drilled down, asking about Woodfork’s rank and salary.

Woodfork earned $188,000 as interim superintendent. King said he didn’t want it reduced.

It has been reduced, however, as it should be. Less responsibility, less pay.

With a base salary combined with experience calculations, Woodfork now earns $172,787 a year as a two-star deputy. No other two-star deputy earns more than $148,859. Hans Ganthier, the only three-star deputy, earns $160,377.

Kirkpatrick earned $337,000 annually in Oakland. That’s what she’s making in New Orleans while in the interim job, and that's what she'll make if confirmed.

As part of the search process, the council unanimously agreed in advance to increase the new chief's salary by about 50% to attract strong candidates for the job.

Among her strengths, Kirkpatrick counted bias and diversity training, being a change agent and an ability to recruit and retain good cops.

She wants a new NOPD marketing plan, with an emphasis on social media, and she wants to waive the $55 fee to take the department test outside of the city. She also wants to prepare candidates by developing guides and practice tests.

For hiring and retention, she proposes offering day care as a part of providing a better quality of life for NOPD employees.

She’s evaluating the department’s organizational structure — without changes for at least 90 days — but she thinks realigning recruiting, the training academy and the field training officer program under one commander could make sense.

Kirkpatrick also has met with U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan about the federal consent decree. She says she wants to work cooperatively to address the 81 paragraphs that show NOPD out of compliance.

Kirkpatrick showed a willingness to be frank when District B council member Lesli Harris asked whether she agreed that the police chief should be in charge of a mayoral violent crime task force rather than a 911/311 director with no law enforcement background. Kirkpatrick said that she’d prefer that a captain closer to the workload head such a group — but that she'd attend each meeting.

Kirkpatrick promised council members that she’ll meet with each of them — one on one — monthly to discuss what they’re hearing and seeing in their districts. After being blasted by citizens, Kirkpatrick walked over to them, asking to learn more about their concerns.

There are a number of things I wish had gone differently, but this is where we are. The mayor has nominated someone who, by most accounts, will do well. 

The council should approve Kirkpatrick, though council member Oliver Thomas said he will cast a protest "no" vote. He feels Woodfork, who is Black, did all she was asked to do, and Black boys and girls need to see support and success.

If the council fails to confirm, we'll have to endure another monthslong search, leaving the department uncertain about its future. And that would be on the council. 

It's time to put Kirkpatrick to work.

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