NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former chief of patrol for the New York City Police Department will serve as “consulting Chief of Operations” for the undermanned New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Wednesday.
Fausto Pichardo will have the position for “as long as six months,” Ferguson said in an email to his officers. The move comes as New Orleans struggles to cope with a diminishing force, low morale and increased response times for emergency calls — all at a time of pandemic-era increases in violent crime. The crime problem has heightened political pressure on Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the subject of a recent recall petition.
Ferguson said Pichardo will help the New Orleans department implement recommendations developed by two former New York police chiefs who have done an assessment of the department’s operations.
“Chief Pichardo will begin working with us today to ascertain exactly where our full-duty cops are and how they might soon be reorganized to achieve the purposes I have set,” Ferguson said, asking offers to cooperate with Pichardo.
The department later issued a statement confirming Pichardo’s hiring but did not respond to questions about details on his hiring or what specific policy recommendations he would help implement.
“Pichardo will be have the responsibility of working to improve officer safety, improving our crime-reduction capabilities, improving response times for serious crimes, especially crimes in progress,” the statement said.
Once known for corruption and scandals involving deadly force, the New Orleans department has been held up by national experts as a model of reform under a court-backed agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.
The agreement, known as a consent decree, remains in effect after almost a decade. But the number of police officers has dwindled to well under 1,000 people, down from more than 1,300 a few years ago.
Cantrell has said the bureaucratic demands imposed by the decree add to the workload and contributed to declines in morale and manpower. But a federal judge appeared skeptical of the city’s request to terminate the agreement during a status hearing earlier this month. Capt. Michael Glasser, head of the Police Association of New Orleans, said other factors are of more concern to rank-and-file officers, including an overzealous “public integrity bureau” — the police internal affairs agency that PANO has accused at times of using false information against officers.
Pichardo, who entered law enforcement as a New York City Housing Police Department cadet in 1997, was seen as a rising star in the leadership of the New York Police Department when he was named chief of patrol in 2019. However, he gave notice in October 2020 that he was retiring.
Pichardo holds a Bachelor’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Master of Public Administration from Marist College. He is also a 2015 graduate of the Police Management Institute at Columbia University, and a 2008 graduate of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, according to they NYPD.
Associated Press reporter Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this story.