NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson to Retire; Council Calls for National Search for New Chief

NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson. Photo courtesy NOPD

After a rocky four-year tenure, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson will retire at the end of the year. Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Ferguson’s planned retirement on Tuesday, though she did not give a specific date for Ferguson to step down. The announcement also did not name a successor.

“The City of New Orleans will soon bid farewell to a great leader, a great partner and a great friend,” Cantrell wrote in a statement. “After 24 years of dedicated public service to the City of New Orleans, Superintendent Shaun Ferguson will retire at the end of this year. He gave this city his very best – the safety and wellbeing of each and every resident and visitor was always his top priority.”

Ferguson was named NOPD Superintendent in 2019. During his four years as chief, he has faced a critical shortage of officers, the COVID-19 pandemic, and two years of the highest violent crime rates in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. His announcement comes just one week after City Council Vice President J.P. Morrell called for Ferguson’s resignation during budget negotiations.

“You can repair the hull of the Titanic over and over, but if the captain keeps driving it into an iceberg, nothing’s going to change,” Morrell said. Morrell also cited NOPD exit interviews that largely named a lack of support from department leadership, internal politics, and poor department culture as their reason for leaving. Over the last several years the already shorthanded department has continued to hemorrhage officers, drawing concern from city officials and residents alike.

“It seemed to be inevitable, to be honest with you,” said District E Councilman Oliver Thomas. “We need someone who can inspire confidence amongst the ranks of a depleted force and someone who can rally the citizens.”

Attention now turns to who Mayor Cantrell will name as Ferguson’s successor and when. In November, New Orleans residents voted that beginning January 1, all mayoral appointments must be approved by the city council. If Cantrell attempts to announce a new chief before then in an attempt to circumvent the oversight, that’s likely to draw the ire of council members.

“Whoever the mayor is appointing, I think they should be able to stand on their own two feet through a confirmation process and circumventing it certainly sends a chilling message to people who are looking for transparency,” said New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno.

Although rumors have pointed at Jonette Williams, a deputy chief within the NOPD as a potential successor, council members are pushing for a nationwide search.

“What I do think is we’ve landed on one person and that’s somebody who’s internal,” said District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso. “We haven’t kicked the tires on anybody across the country who has dealt with these issues in the past.”

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