New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s plan to name a permanent police chief from within the department one week after Superintendent Michael Harrison’s announced departure for a new job in Baltimore is within her mayoral authority, reports Nola.com. She plans to appoint a replacement on Monday. Cantrell would become the first New Orleans mayor in a quarter-century to name a permanent chief without conducting a national search or first making an interim appointment to allow for an on-the-job vetting period. The last mayor to choose a police chief in the manner Cantrell plans to do was Sidney Barthelemy, who was near the end of his second and final term in 1994 when he moved quickly to replace scandal-plagued Superintendent Arnesta Taylor with Joseph Orticke.
Cantrell’s expedited selection process, and Baltimore’s surprise announcement about Harrison’s hiring, illustrate how politically treacherous the appointment of a big-city police chief can be. In New Orleans, some observers are questioning the relative lack of public input in Cantrell’s selection process. Others defend her authority to make the appointment and point out that she has had several months to consider and evaluate potential replacements, knowing that Harrison was being courted. In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh has been criticized for conducting a secretive selection process. Baltimore’s police commissioner appointment is highly politicized, requiring confirmation from its 15-member City Council, many of whom have spent Pugh’s first term clashing with the mayor. New Orleans’ city charter has no confirmation requirement, so Cantrell doesn’t need the council’s approval. Beau Tidwell, Cantrell’s spokesman, said the mayor decided against an interim appointment because the city is less than two months away from Mardi Gras and Cantrell “wanted to move immediately to a new chief (because) she thought the talent and the resources” were already inside the department.