New Orleans police chief stresses need for strong leadership of Baltimore police department to change culture

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that she has chosen New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison to lead the city’s police department, a day after her previous pick for commissioner withdrew from consideration.

Michael Harrison, the New Orleans police superintendent named Tuesday as the next Baltimore police commissioner nominee, stressed the need for strong leadership if the department is to change its culture and reduce violent crime.

“It is a lot and it does not happen fast,” Harrison told The Baltimore Sun in his first interview since being named Tuesday morning by Mayor Catherine Pugh.


“It is going to be about selecting the right team of people who have the will for reform and the capacity for reform.”

"It's about being transparent and being accountable, both internally and externally to the community," he said.

Harrison spent almost a decade in the New Orleans Police Department's internal affairs unit, investigating wrongdoing by officers. It was an assignment that he said showed the department at its worst during what he called its "horrible years," but also helped him build a strong set of management skills.

"Not everybody can take on the managerial and leadership side of dealing with its personnel and discipline system and dealing with cultural change," Harrison said.

Harrison described Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis approaching him Saturday to gauge whether he was interested in becoming police commissioner.

Harrison had discussed the job in October with a panel of experts working for Pugh. The panel recommended him, but Harrison said at that point he wasn't a candidate for the job.

However, being approached directly this weekend with an offer led him to consider coming to Baltimore.

“This is one of the most consequential weekends of my life,” Harrison said. “The phone call Saturday morning was a life-changing phone call ... It took a lot of thinking, but my whole career has been preparing for this moment.”