New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, nominated for the same position in Baltimore, has won over rank-and-file officers while navigating tough reforms under a federal consent decree. He would find himself in a similar position if he is confirmed to his new job.
When New Orleans’ police superintendent resigned in 2014, the mayor promoted commander Michael Harrison, 45, over more senior officers to run the force. Union leaders called it a slap in the face. Some saw the move as intended to curry favor with the churches; Harrison preached on Sundays. Five years later, Harrison has won over rank-and-file officers while navigating tough reforms under a federal consent decree, the Baltimore Sun reports. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh chose him to lead the city’s police department. “He’s well liked as a person; he’s respected by the troops,” said Eric Hessler, attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, the officers’ union. “He was a good police officer. He did his job, and he did it the way it was supposed to be done.”
In 27 years on the force, Harrison, 49, rose from a patrol officer. He earned a reputation as an approachable commander, someone who doesn’t shy from the public and who cares for his cops. Last year, a survey of 281 officers found 80 percent believed he was leading the department in the right direction. Jason Rogers Williams, New Orleans City Council president, said, “He was widely respected and widely appreciated in poor communities as well as affluent.” Harrison formed a specialized unit to suppress gun violence. New Orleans last year had its fewest homicides in 47 years. Harrison’s biggest task was implementation of a federal consent decree. The U.S. Department of Justice faulted police for unconstitutional tactics, from bad stops and racial profiling to excessive force and failing to investigate crimes against women. “There was relatively little drama,” said criminologist Peter Scharf of the LSU School of Public Health in New Orleans. “Mike has been exceptionally skilled at implementing a very tough, monitored, performance-driven consent decree process.” In Baltimore, he would find himself in the same position.