NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- This city's incoming mayor ran into his first hurdle Monday when Black community leaders said his handling of a police chief search was too secretive.
The transition work of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu had been running smoothly as he set up numerous diverse panels to help him craft recommendations for the city's future administration. But his police chief search committee may be unraveling.
Danatus King, the head of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP, resigned Monday, saying the search was not open enough because the 21-member committee would not see the names of all the applicants.
"In this era of our community calling for transparency," he said, "supporting a procedure that would not allow even the task force members to know the names of all applicants would, in the opinion of the NAACP, further undermine our community's trust and confidence."
Xavier University president Norman Francis, who is co-chairman of the police chief search committee, said he respected King's decision, but believes the process has been as open as possible while not damaging the confidentiality of the search.
The panel has sought a great deal of public input, Francis said. However, he stressed that confidentiality is important to those who have expressed interest in the job.
"The next police chief of New Orleans is not unemployed," Francis said.
He said applicants would likely not want their current communities and employers to know they are seeking employment elsewhere.
Landrieu hired the International Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct the search, but the group is not providing the search committee with all the applicants names.
Landrieu has said the IACP and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives would screen the applicants and recommend the most qualified candidates to the search committee. The mayor plans on making the final decision.
Norman Francis, the co-chair of the search committee, has said the search would be done "in accordance with national best practices."
At least one other task force member, Gina Womack, said she would resign unless the process was more open.
"I had hoped that there would be more inclusive
participation," said Womack, a co-director of the nonprofit
Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children. "All
voices are not being represented at every level of the process."
The police chief search is a highly contentious issue in New Orleans, a city plagued with crime and corruption inside the law enforcement agency.
"The ultimate goal is to find the best police chief," Landrieu said in a statement Monday night. "We are relying on national best practices to that end. The search process has included an unprecedented level of input from citizens, community leaders and experts."
Landrieu, the city's first white mayor since 1978, has called finding the next police chief his top priority. He hopes to have a new chief named when he takes over from Mayor Ray Nagin on May 3.
Greg Rusovich, the chairman of the New Orleans Business Council and a member of the police chief search committee, said the panel's work was on track and included "significant citizen engagement."
"If you look at other communities, this is one of the most democratic and open processes that there has been," Rusovich said.