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Police veteran hailed for reform efforts in Washington, California nominated to be New Orleans chief

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday that she has chosen Anne Kirkpatrick, a former chief of police in Spokane, Washington, and Oakland, California, to head the New Orleans Police Department, a nomination subject to the approval of the City Council.

Kirkpatrick, if approved, would be the permanent replacement for Shaun Ferguson, who retired from the job last year. The post has been held on an interim basis by Michelle Woodfork, a longtime veteran of the New Orleans department, who had also applied for the job.

“With over 35 years of experience in law enforcement, coupled with 20 years of leading police departments of even larger municipalities, Kirkpatrick has proven that she is more than capable and has what it takes to now lead the world-class NOPD," Cantrell said in a news release.

Kirkpatrick's job history includes six years as chief of police in Spokane. She was tapped to help with police reform efforts in Chicago under then-Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in 2017. But she left that job soon afterward to head up Oakland's police department.

She was fired in Oakland in 2020. But she filed a whistleblower claim against the city, alleging she was fired for calling out unethical behavior by the civilian commission that oversees the police department. She eventually received a $1.5 million payment.

Kirkpatrick has been hailed as a reformer by her supporters. If she is approved by the City Council, she would head a police department that has been operating under a broad reform agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that was approved by a federal judge in 2013. It was the result of federal investigations growing out of deadly police shootings of civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Also facing the new chief: a force that has been steadily dropping in manpower in recent years, even amid jumps in violent crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voters approved a measure last year granting the council the right to approve or reject a nominee for police chief. Council Vice President Helena Moreno, among critics of the selection process, did not guarantee approval in a statement reacting to the nomination.

“All I have asked for during the search for a new police chief is that the very best candidate be chosen in a transparent and fair process," Moreno said. "Arguably, transparency has been an issue, but hopefully, more can be brought to light as we move toward the confirmation process. I look forward to learning more about Anne Kirkpatrick, her previous work, and most importantly, her plans to make the city of New Orleans safer and improve our NOPD.”