Former NOPD Chief Warren Riley Reacts to Mayor Cantrell’s Reversal on Homeland Security Job

Former NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley wasted little time today expressing his disappointment to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s decision to rescind the employment offer she made to Riley to become the city’s Homeland Security & Public Safety Director in her administration.

Mayor Cantrell officially rescinded her offer to Riley to join her administration today, first with a morning phone call to Riley, according to Riley’s statement and then in an official statement the Mayor released later today.

“Mr. Riley’s qualifications are undeniable,” the Mayor said in her statement. “As one of the select team of Federal Coordinating Officers who serve as the president’s representative on federally declared disasters, he has been a leader in crisis response and emergency preparedness on the nation level.”

Her statement goes on to refer to apparent outcry over what has been perceived as Riley’s shortcomings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“But here in New Orleans, the pain os too great. The untreated and lingering trauma so many of our residents still struggle with, the post-traumatic stress that still informs how we all look back to that flashpoint, makes it untenable to move forward with Mr. Riley as part of our new administration.”

Though he had a leadership role in the department, Riley was not appointed  NOPD superintendent until after Hurricane Katrina and its immediate aftermath. His predecessor former Supt. Eddie Compass officially resigned on Sept. 27, 2005. Riley was named interim chief at that time and was permanently appointed to the post at a later date, serving through the end of former Mayor Ray Nagin’s second term in May 2010.  And in his own statement, he had a lot to say about Mayor Cantrell’s about-face on his appointment.

“After six-weeks of rigorous interviews and vetting, it was determined that I was the most qualified candidate for position,”Riley said in a printed statement. “I am deeply disappointed  and the Mayor’s reversal comes as a complete surprise.”

He statement continues by outlining specific qualifications he thinks makes him ideal for the job as well as some of the steps he has taken over the past several weeks in preparation to assume the role.

“Throughout the interview process, Mayor-Elect Cantrell indicated that she was impressed with my 20 years of local law enforcement leadership, international emergency relief work and experience managing and coordinating the federal response to presidentially declared disasters with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Specifically, after a thorough review, I obtained top secret clearance from the Department of Homeland Security…The U.S. State Department selected me to assist with the assessment of the collapse of the criminal justice system in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake. I was a lead advisor to the Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control on the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“Prior to the scheduled May 1, 2018 Cantrell Administration Cabinet Appointments news conference announcement, I was preparing to return to city government, having undergone employment administration processes, including security and background checks and a drug test. On the morning of the May 1 news conference, I was introduced to the Mayor’s new leadership team as the director of Homeland Security and Public Safety.”

Riley says he was also directed by the Mayor on May to conduct an introductory group session with other city leaders in criminal justice and public safety including the superintendents of the police and fire departments, the crime commissioner and the chief of emergency management and was given a tour of the office of emergency management. But it was soon after that that he was informed by Mayor Cantrell that she would be suspending his appointment.

Still, he is troubled by today’s complete reversal of her oroginal decision tapping him to lead Homeland Security and Public Safety.

“Today’s decision by Mayor Cantrell to . . . rescind my appointment is concerning on several levels,” he said in the statement. “I am aware of rumors and untruths being spread questioning my personal character and professional reputation. Let me set the record straight.”

Riley goes on to address some apparent misconceptions about his role during Hurricane Katrina, specifically referencing the Danzinger Bridge incident during which police officers shot and killed 40-year-old Ronald Madison and James 17-year-old Brissette and wounded several other innocent and unarmed citizens.

“At not time was I on the bridge. At no time did I have communications with officers during that incident. At no time did I give orders related to actions that transpired on the bridge,” his statement said. “Regarding the police department incident report, I did not read the report in its entirety; but I was briefed multiple times by the chief of detectives concerning the incident. The incident report was submitted to the Orleans District Attorney Office. The district attorney obtained indictments. Officers went to trial in Orleans Criminal District Court. The case was ultimately dismissed by the presiding judge. Subsequently, the case was tried in federal court. As then superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, I followed all standard operating procedures related to the incident.”

While there have been voices against Riley’s appointment, there have been other groups encouraging the Mayor to affirm her offer to the former NOPD chief.

Women on the Move released a statement, in the form of an open letter to the Mayor, in favor of Riley on Tuesday. In part, it read:

“In the horrific after-math of Hurricane Katrina, Riley inherited an abandoned and rapidly disintegrating NOPD wrought with police cover-ups, desertions, lootings, misconduct, shootings and violence. Due to the ravages of intense citywide flooding, many Police Officers lost their homes; work-place buildings were inaccessible, as well as patrol cars were destroyed. As many as two hundred and fifty (250) police officers were undocumented and unable to be contacted or found. Subsequently, Riley fired eighty (87) plus Officers for desertion and another fifty (50) or so resigned under the weight of the desertion investigation. While several other Officers simply left the NOPD for various reasons ranging from other employment opportunities to relocation, Warren Riley took the reins after the departure of the former chief, during this tumultuous time to protect the Citizens of New Orleans but mostly importantly our City as a whole.

…We believe Warren Riley is not a part of the problem, but a part of the solutions for New Orleans. Far from an anomaly, our impressions are that he exhibited an integrity based, sincere and transparent personality when engaging and working with Women on the Move. He was not in-charge nor the Superintendent at the start of or during Hurricane Katrina, yet appointed some four or five weeks thereafter. We feel he helped to move the City of New Orleans forward in spite of tremendous difficulties. He wasn’t implicated in any form of police misconduct whatsoever. He assisted and cooperated with the federal authorities in the prosecution and conviction of police officers charged in numerous acts of misconduct. He joined with us in insisting the Danziger Bridge violators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Riley indicated he believed their subsequent convictions were a victory for citizenry of New Orleans.d for a community based investigative unit to address police misconduct.

Now, we will not allow him to be demonized for the messy failings of inappropriate online comments by the former United States Attorney General in the Danziger Case.”

 

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