The new top cop in New Orleans made a huge promise to the public Monday night. Interim Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said he will make the NOPD the best department in America.
Harrison spoke at a well attended community meeting in Algiers.
"I thought it was wise at this time to promote somebody from within and I have asked Commander Michael Harrison if he would serve as the interim chief," said Mayor Landrieu to the hundreds who showed up for a previously planned meeting to state their priorities for the city's 2015 operating budget.
The mayor introduced Harrison at the meeting called to give District C residents a chance to speak directly with the mayor and city department heads.
"I am extremely grateful, extremely proud, but yet humbled to be selected and appointed to lead the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department into the future, I am fully committed to this task and we as a department are fully committed to making every neighborhood in New Orleans a safe neighborhood," Harrison said during his brief comments.
Harrison has big goals for the department suffering from low morale and a shortage of street cops.
"We are available to you, you have access to us and we're going to make the New Orleans Police Department the best police department in the United State," he said.
But many in the audience rose to air their gripes about crime. Almost 50 people asked questions of the mayor and other city officials.
"Right now people think the police are over-burdened, they're not going to come, so they post something on social media, but they don't call the police and tell them an incident has happened and the police can't police they're not being informed," said Bill Murphy who was attacked and beaten by a group of young people in the St. Roch area.
"Everybody in here knows that even if I had 3,000 police officers, right? And even if I had a policeman on every corner it is not going to solve the crime that's taking place in this city, right? I'm just going to tell you straight up that one of the reasons we have crime is because people are committing crime, now you should ask yourself why they're committing the crime and what led to that and some of it could be jobless, some could be mental health, some could be because of evil people who want to hurt other people," said the mayor.
While the issue of crime was on a lot of residents' minds, they also complained loudly of other problems like high grass, blighted property, non-working street lights, playground needs, and bad streets.
"The streets in the city are deplorable and we would like to get you committed Mr. Mayor to helping us fix our streets. we want to work with you to find the funds, to get a master plan put in place and produced," said Eric Songy, who came bearing "Fix My Street" signs.
"On the streets thing we're going to keep working with you. I know you know we're progress, I know you know you're frustrated because it's not enough. No matter how much progress we make on blight, or how much progress we make on streets, or how much progress we make on street lights, if the lot next to your house isn't cut, and the lights are off, and street's got a pothole you are an unhappy person and you should be because it's not a condition to be the city in."
"And at night we can hear the cars when they hit, people that's not familiar with our neighborhood, they hit that sink hole and I'm sure the city is going to be paying for a lot of cars in our area," said another resident.
Mayor Landrieu will propose a $500 million spending plan for 2015. He said city government's bank account will only stretch so far, despite the growing demands on city funds including the NOPD and Orleans Parish Prison reforms and the millions the city owes the fire fighters' pension fund. A balanced budget must be approved by the city council by December 1.