On October 11 the New Orleans City Council held a special Governmental Affairs Committee meeting to advance the nomination of Anne Kirkpatrick to the role of NOPD superintendent. Voters gave the City Council greater control over police chief nominations and other mayoral appointments last year; and after a wide-ranging selection process, Mayor LaToya Cantrell nominated Kirkpatrick over the former Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork. Woodfork’s time in office included increased police recruitment and a drop in the murder rate in New Orleans, though her tenure was brief. Anne Kirkpatrick is a white woman from Memphis who was formerly the police chief in Oakland, California. She was fired from the Oakland PD after clashing with the City’s civilian oversight board, and accusing them of corruption. A federal jury later ruled in her favor that she was wrongfully terminated. After the Committee voted 4-1 to advance her nomination, the full Council voted to confirm Kirkpatrick on October 19. The following are a selection of in-person and online comments submitted before the committee.
Anne Kirkpatrick is not ready to take command of the NOPD and according to people from Oakland she wasn’t ready then. Now the Black officers in Oakland had many problems with this woman. And now we’re bringing her into a 60-plus percent Black city and we’re going to have these and other problems with her. Now we’ve laid the foundation for this council to reject her and start this process over again, with the community at the outset, not in the rear end of this process.1WC J., Communities United for Change (in-person)
So around the turn of the year, I saw in a ballot they got a chance to change how we do things in New Orleans about appointments, giving it up to the voters that give the City Council the powers to confirm or not confirm NOPD superintendent. And I thought that was gonna give us an opportunity [for] public input in these processes of appointments—instead of having this dictatorship of a one-mayor system where there’s no oversight of the police. But I’m disappointed to come here today and find the City Council president saying that you’re uninterested in hearing about anything else other than whether or not the person is professionally qualified. That is not the number-one issue to begin with! The number-one issue is, is this someone that the community wants and needs? No one has really made any effort to get people’s input on this selection process! We need a civilian police accountability council.2Toni J., New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police (in-person)
Kirkpatrick should not be confirmed for the interim chief of police. She has proven that she can not navigate a city out of a consent decree, and she has sued her previous city for $1.5 million. Her term would be so short that she would be rendered unable to implement long-term change or test and correct new programs. It would take the entirety of this short position for Kirkpatrick to just learn the city—not even to get the police and public on board nor to come up with an effective program to counter crime. Woodfork should be given more time to continue to allow her programs to bring crime down. She has a proven track-record for the city—unlike an outsider who knows nothing about the city or its people and will be guessing about new strategies for a population she is unfamiliar with. We should not change our current leadership and chance the lives of people and children. To do so is playing with people’s lives, and putting residents at risk for someone who barely knows the city, cannot fulfill a consent decree, can’t spell Tchoupitoulas, and doesn’t even know where her shoes are at. Do not play political games; do not confirm Anne Kirkpatrick for interim chief. It will cost the city dearly: in money, time, and lives.3Cassandra S. (in-person)
We deserve to have a voice in who polices us; there has been zero transparency around the process of choosing a new superintendent. We have no idea why the other candidates were dropped from the list. Something so important as choosing an NOPD superintendent needs to be a democratic process.4Felix A. (online)
With all due respect: At the same time, when Anne Kirkpatrick was the police chief of Oakland, is when San Francisco-Oakland was one of the most Gentrifying cities in the United States. New Orleans is number five (5) on that same list, so maybe this selection is based on a Police Chief who’s experienced in “Policing Gentrification” to conduct Stops and Low-level arrest, in the midst of this horrific demographic change. This same demographic change, became fatal for a 31 year homeless man, who was shot and killed by the Oakland Police, within a Gentrifying tract. Kirkpatrick stated her accomplishments within her resume while working as Chief of Oakland that with the use of Intelligence Led Policing, it resulted [in] a 50% reduction in the stops of African American and Latinos… if she’s saying that due to the September 11 attacks, and the power given under [the] Patriot Act, which was put in place to gather foreign Intelligence and to investigate international terrorism, is now justif[ied] to be used, in violation of the 4th Amendment, for domestic spying by Police on African Americans and Latinos so that she don’t have to violate your 4th Amendment rights in a “Terry” Stop, Frisk and Search. The ACLU has got a list, with a long history of domestic spying, political spying on political groups, political activist[s] and American citizens by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI’s COINTELPRO and the local police. And now she is talking about going back to these old tendencies. What about intelligence that analyzes the studies and data that [reflects] a spike in crime rates as it relates to gentrification, and what about social economics issues, that tends to fuel crime. Nah! I think it would be a very bad mistake for this City Council to confirm the selection of Anne Kirkpatrick as our next Police Chief. No disrespect ma’am.5Malcom F. (online)
We got many things we can talk about, Kirkpatrick. I hear you’re not for the consent decree. Twenty-nine years later, you know how many years I been up here for the consent decree? October 13 makes 29 years—Len Davis had my mama Kim Groves killed. Working for the NOPD. We didn’t have the consent decree. What is wrong with having oversight? Saying if you do wrong, you have consequences. So are you really for us? Who’s gonna blow the whistle? As a community, we have to stand together, because law enforcement do.6Jasmine G. (in-person)
To follow up on this issue, you can email your City councilmembers. To submit a public comment, follow instructions at council.nola.gov. Interested in reading all comments after a meeting? You can email your councilmember or file a public records request.
illustration by Sadie Wiese