New Orleans mayoral candidates tackle crime at debate
By Brendan McCarthy, The Times-Picayune
January 08, 2010, 7:44AM mayoral-forum-january.JPGTed Jackson / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans mayoral candidates, from left, Rob Couhig, John Georges, Troy Henry, Mitch Landrieu James Perry and Nadine Ramsey debate during a forum at Walter L Cohen Sr High School on Tuesday. These same candidates debated crime on Thursday and were joined by Norbert Rome.New Orleans crime and the selection of a police chief provoked the most passionate and pointed responses from mayoral candidates in a public debate Thursday night. Several of the candidates said the police chief's appointment is one of the most important decisions the next mayor will make. norbert-rome.JPGNorbert Rome in 2006Attorney Rob Couhig, businessman John Georges, businessman Troy Henry, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, housing activist James Perry, former Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey, and Norbert Rome participated in the forum. All the candidates said they would conduct a national search for a police chief, while still considering local candidates as well. Henry spoke of a "crisis in confidence" within the Police Department and said he wants better response times, better customer service and a clear-cut set of objectives from a police leader. "There will be zero tolerance for any liars, cheats and thieves, " he said. "I want the Drew Brees of police chiefs." In choosing a top cop, Landrieu said he would rely upon a board of appointed community stakeholders to vet candidates. Landrieu also proposed deterrents to crime, vowing to revitalize the New Orleans Recreation Department and the juvenile criminal justice system. Georges said he would require a chief to have 20 years of law enforcement service in an urban environment. Georges' proposed platform also relies on three styles of policing: community policing, intelligent policing and problem-oriented policing. "Right now the police chief is using overtime to solve the problem, " he said. The most definitive pledge came from Perry, who reiterated his vow to lower the murder rate by 40 percent, or he would not run for re-election. "That's true accountability, " he said. Perry also said the NOPD needs to focus efforts on violent crime, not minor offenses. The lone major Republican in the race, Couhig, wants the next chief to make policing "a career again, " with honor and accountability. He also said the city's new police monitor needs to work with citizens so they know the police are "there to work with them." Ramsey declared a background in administration key. Meanwhile, Rome drew gasps from the crowd when he said the most important quality of a police leader should be passion. "It's not rocket science, " he said.