Oct 11, 2023 - Politics

Anne Kirkpatrick moves step closer to being New Orleans' next police chief

Photo shows interim NOPD police chief Anne Kirkpatrick sitting at a table with a TV camera next to her

Gilbert Montaño, the city's chief administrative officer, and NOPD interim chief Anne Kirkpatrick appear before a City Council committee Wednesday. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Anne Kirkpatrick is moving forward in her journey to become New Orleans' next police chief after a City Council vote on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Kirkpatrick will hold one of the city's most important jobs if she is confirmed later this month.

  • As an outsider, she will have to earn the trust of the community and the police force.

Driving the news: City Council committee members voted 4-1 to have Kirkpatrick go before the full council for a confirmation hearing. The vote did not include a recommendation on whether she should be confirmed.

    • The decision came after almost five hours of questions and verbal sparring from members and community activists about Kirkpatrick's plans for running the police department and improving public safety.
    • A recurring theme was if Kirkpatrick, as a white woman from Memphis, Tennessee, could understand the nuances of policing a majority Black city with a distinct culture.
    • At one point, two council members were arguing and talking over each other, and then a resident yelled a racial slur while criticizing Kirkpatrick.

State of play: All City Council members were at Wednesday's meeting, even though only five were able to vote as part of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

  • It was the first time council members publicly met with Kirkpatrick as a whole. They previously had met one-on-one with her.
  • Mayor LaToya Cantrell nominated Kirkpatrick, most recently the police chief in Oakland, California, after a national search led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
  • City Council members criticized Cantrell's administration and IACP throughout the process, saying the search lacked transparency.
  • Cantrell was not at the meeting, but several high-ranking NOPD officials were in the front row.

Between the lines: Kirkpatrick's nomination over the previous interim chief, Michelle Woodfork, came as a "shock," Council member Helena Moreno said Wednesday.

  • Several council members praised Woodfork, who was in the audience. She was a finalist for the job and had been the interim chief since Shaun Ferguson retired in December.

Zoom out: Moreno said she and others would work to create a permanent, three-star deputy chief position for Woodfork, making her the force's No. 2 under Kirkpatrick.

What's next: The City Council will vote on Oct. 19 on whether to confirm Kirkpatrick.

  • The City Council confirmation is a new process required by the Home Rule Charter that was changed last year.

Go deeper: Read Kirkpatrick's presentation to the City Council

Editor's note: This developing story will be updated.

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