Interim no more: Michael Harrison named NOPD superintendent

Posted on: October 14 2014
By Jonathan Bullington, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

After spending the last eight weeks as interim chief, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has officially named Michael Harrison the New Orleans police superintendent.

The mayor made the announcement Tuesday evening during a National Night Out Against Crime event in Algiers.

"I was aware from the first national search we did who all the chiefs are around the country ... and I asked because I always want to find the best in the country whether they're there or they're here," Landrieu said.

"And I'm pleased to tell you Michael Harrison really rose to the level of somebody that I know is going to be a great chief."

A 23-year NOPD veteran, Harrison last served as commander of a 7th District that covers the entirety of eastern New Orleans. Landrieu tapped him in August to take over as interim chief following the retirement of former Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who left to take a teaching job at Loyola University.

At the time, Landrieu said he would seek input on what the community wants in a chief but suggested that the job could be Harrison's to lose.

"When I made him the interim chief, he had an opportunity to lose it," Landrieu said. "Not only did he not lose it, he gained the trust and confidence of people throughout the city. So I felt good about it then (and) I feel great about it now."

The mayor said he looked across the country for available candidates to lead the department, but did not go into specifics about Harrison's competition for the job.

"Every time I think about doing something, I always have a national profile," Landrieu said. "I always have a heart for people in New Orleans, but if I found somebody from across the country that I thought was better suited for this job, I would not have hesitated to hire them."

"But I also wanted to give the guys inside the department the chance to prove themselves," the mayor continued. "Commander Harrison rose up clearly and really gave me an opportunity to know that we can rise up, to basically tell the younger guys in the department: this is the department of the future."

Harrison joined the NOPD in 1991, after a career as a munitions specialist sergeant with the Louisiana Air National Guard, which followed his 1987 graduation from McDonough 35 High School. He became a detective in the citywide narcotics unit in 1995, then a sergeant in the 8th District, before joining the Public Integrity Bureau in 2000.

He attained a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix in New Orleans in 2006, and a master's degree in criminal justice from Loyola University in 2008.

"I'm the poster child that there is no more glass ceiling," Harrison said. "That at any moment a person who works hard, has a good work ethic, has confidence and faith and integrity, can rise. And smart people will notice that talent and then give them an opportunity to show off that talent."

Harrison officially takes the reigns of an understaffed department struggling to combat crime and comply with a federal consent decree.

"We have a long way to go, but the New Orleans police officers in this city have done an unbelievable job under difficult circumstances," Landrieu said. "I am asking the chief to double down on the critical partnerships with law enforcement agencies that are standing around us today (and) to lead us with the integrity and the confidence that he has shown over time."