A shake-up of the New Orleans Police Department’s command staff was unveiled Friday when the police chief announced two of his top deputies chiefs would swap jobs.
Paul Noel, previously the deputy chief over field operations, is taking over as deputy chief of the investigations and support bureau. John Thomas, who currently has that job, will take over Noel’s role as head of field operations.
Additionally, Capt. Nick Gernon, who previously oversaw the crime lab, will take over as leader of the 7th District, which polices all of New Orleans East. Capt. Michael Glasser, who held the 7th District leadership role since the beginning of the year, will go back to his previous role overseeing narcotics.
Simon Hargrove, who commanded the Public Integrity Bureau, will take over Gernon’s role overseeing the crime lab.
Ferguson said the shake-up of his command staff is “separate and unrelated” to a critical audit of district task forces, which would fall under the field operations bureau. The report, authored by federal consent degree monitors, is expected to be released publicly in coming weeks. NOPD said earlier this week the audit shows the units had inadequate supervision.
The changes are also unrelated to alleged misconduct of 8th District task force officers that is apparently shown in video footage that surfaced in recent days, Ferguson said. In response to the video evidence, he said, internal NOPD investigators have put the four officers on desk duty and have opened a criminal probe into their behavior.
The sergeant who oversaw them, who has since retired and is part of NOPD’s reserve division, is also on desk duty.
The four officers on desk duty are Sgt. Jason Collins, Officer Jordan Sherr, Officer Samuel Senter, and Officer William Knowles.
District task forces are based out of NOPD’s eight geographic districts and handle specialized assignments at the direction of the district captain or another supervisor who is designated by the captain.
Earlier this week, he announced all district-based task forces were suspended and its members returned to regular patrol duties while NOPD leaders investigate problems with task forces and figure out how to best address them. Ferguson said he takes the federal monitor’s report and the alleged misconduct by 8th District task force members seriously.
“The department has come too far since onset of the consent decree to do anything less,” Ferguson said Friday.
NOPD entered the consent decree in 2013 after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation uncovered a culture of corruption and pattern of civil rights abuses, including Katrina-era shootings of unarmed civilians. It has resulted in the rewriting of most NOPD policies and addressed nearly every element of policing from officer-involved shootings to community engagement and operation of body-worn cameras.
Monitors and the federal judge overseeing the consent decree, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, have lauded NOPD in recent months for its reforms. However, supervision, bias-free policing and stops and searches were among the topics monitors have said NOPD needed to work on before being declared fully compliant.
Ferguson said the fight against violent crime should not be negatively impacted by the suspension of task forces, and NOPD remains “committed to constitutional policing.”