New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas met at NOPD headquarters June 9 with editors from a dozen New Orleans media outlets to push an improved transparency message. Serpas, a native of the city whose family has served in the NOPD for decades, said he read the New Orleans newspapers every day for the nine years he was away, first as chief of the Washington State Patrol and then as police chief of Nashville, Tenn. Serpas saw coverage that portrayed the department as "balkanized," he says. "And I want to be different."
Serpas, who became the city's top cop in May, has already made two obvious changes to the department to improve transparency: Opening weekly COMSTAT meetings to the public, and giving his commanders permission to speak to the press. "It didn't make sense to me that the department would shut COMSTAT off from their own department," says Serpas. "That's when people start walking around saying, 'They must be up to some kind of voodoo in there.'"
The chief also asked for the media's help in urging citizens to call police when a crime occurs in their neighborhood and said attention to livability crimes as well as maintaining a focus on reducing violent crime would be a good way to rebuild public confidence in NOPD.
Representatives from Hispanic print and radio outlets said many in the Latino community are reluctant to report crimes because they're afraid their immigration status will be questioned. "I'm not interested in immigration status," Serpas says. "I spent a lot of time at odds with congressional leadership on this issue in Nashville. How people find themselves in this nation is beyond my control." — Matt Davis