Newell talks highs and lows with retiring NOPD Chief Michael Harrison

Newell Normand
January 10, 2019 - 2:10 pm

We recently got the news that NOPD Chief Michael Harrison had agreed to become Baltimore's new police chief.

I admit it…I'm biased. I like the job Chief Harrison has done. I like the work that he did. I liked working with him. I give him a big thanks for his years of service, not only for the New Orleans community but the community at large, throughout the metro area.

Every job has its high notes and low notes. Chief Harrison gave me some of the high points in his time as NOPD Superintendent.

“The appointment by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the appointment by Mayor [LaToya] Cantrell, the appointment by Mayor [Catherine] Pugh are certainly the high notes for me personally. But professionally, throughout the stint of my career, especially as the chief, [the high note has been] just being able to see the department turn itself around.”

Harrison listed a litany of accomplishments. “My assistant chiefs and my commanders are being flown across the country and even out of the country to teach on how to reduce crime, how to be accountable, how to transform an agency like a police department, and having like 20+ agencies across the country come in and to learn from us, be highlighted in national conferences. Those are really the high points for me.”

There are lows as well, though; and they can be somber.

“Having to bury officers killed in the line of duty are the low points,” Harrison said. “I'm sitting in my office now, and four pictures are hung on the wall next to me. They were killed in the line of duty. I've had officers…others who died in the line of duty…from other things but weren't killed. Having to attend their funerals to deliver eulogies.”

 

“Those are the low points because, man, we carry those things, the responsibility of the well-being of those people who work for us and work with us. Those are the low points that stay with me and are in my mind and heart forever, no matter what.”

There are trials and tribulations of leading an organization, particularly with how different law enforcement is looked at today.

“You're absolutely right. Today, whether you agree with it or not, you're expected to be all things to all people and having expertise so we can be all things to all people. It's a little unfair, but we step up. Unlike other professions, we step up and accomplish that.”

Harrison is right. It's tough, but it is rewarding.

“I'm so grateful, so honored, so privileged to have led this department, to have been a member for almost 28 years and have led it now for the last 4 and a half...so honored to have done that,” he said. “We're a very different department now than when I started. To see the turnaround that we've made, and now the reform along with the reduction in violent crime at the same time, it speaks to the execution of the plan and the vision by the members of our department over time. It's just an honor and a privilege to be here.”

As he departs, Harrison believes in the people he has helped grow and develop over the years. “Now it's their time,” he said. “Time to rise up and take leadership positions. Hopefully they can take this department to higher levels than I was able to take it.”

I absolutely agree with Chief Harrison. Good leaders develop successors. It's one of the things necessary to keep the organization going.

“My heart, mind, body, and soul were always in New Orleans; but people thought I had the skill-set to do what needs to be done in Baltimore.”

Harrison is confident as he heads to Baltimore; and he thinks his hiring sends a larger, important message for the city where his heart, mind, body, and soul are in.

“It's an opportunity and a challenge; but, with the right team, I believe now people can say New Orleans has produced the kind of talent that can go anywhere in the country and help anybody and turn other departments around like we did here in New Orleans.”

Good luck, Chief Harrison. You can listen to my entire interview with him below.

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