Michael Harrison, 46, has just finished his first year at the helm of one of the most closely watched U.S. police forces–New Orleans–and he has steered it into calmer waters, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We’ve done more in a year than most chiefs do in their whole careers, he says. Mayor Mitch Landrieu chose him to replace Ronal Serpas, who joined Loyola University’s criminal justice faculty. He had overseen one police district for two years. Harrison has sought better compliance with reforms in a 2012 federal consent decree, reshuffled leadership twice in the beleaguered section handling sex and child abuse cases, won two pay raises for an understaffed force, dealt with the losses of two officers killed on duty, overseen a reported 8.5 percent decline in major crime, and emphasized improving police-community relations.
The honeymoon period appears to be waning. Critics say Harrison has failed to establish needed independence from City Hall, hasn’t stemmed the manpower hemorrhage, hasn’t outlined a meaningful crime-fighting strategy, and damaged morale because of promotion choices that prompted a lawsuit. Perhaps most concerning, while crime is down overall, murders are up 26 percent and armed robberies up 2 percent. Criminologist Peter Scharf, of the LSU School of Public Health’s Institute of Public Health and Justice, says, “A lot of officers I’ve talked to say that he’s easier to deal with than was … Serpas, who could be aloof, arrogant, whatever. But in business, you’re judged on profit margin. In law enforcement, you judge someone on crime results, and the results have not been good. I think he gets an I for Incomplete.”