The mayor who vowed to end city's 'culture of death'

Three days after taking office in May, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced he was replacing the chief of the city's corrupt and widely distrusted police force. His intention, he said, was to "transform the culture of death on the streets of New Orleans into a celebration of life".

Few elected officials in the Crescent City have ever alluded so bluntly to the shadow of fear that has been cast over it by years of violence, some of it perpetrated not by its citizens but by the police who are employed to protect them.

Landrieu, below, does not do candy-coating. He and the new head of the NOPD, Ronal Serpas, who was drafted in from Nashville, have already begun taking steps to dismantle the bureaucracy at the top of the department where captains have been paid big salaries to look after departments consisting sometimes of only one person.

More important, however, was Landrieu's decision upon taking office to ask the US Justice Department to investigate all that ails the NOPD. That step alone was an admission that the city itself could not undo the abuse, violence and corruption that has thrived for years. In the days after Katrina, it was not just Danziger. In June, five current or former officers were charged in the shooting to death of Henry Glover, 31, whose burned body turned up after Katrina.

It has been a head-spinning baptism for Landrieu whose sister, Mary, is Louisiana's senior US Senator, and whose father, Moon, was mayor 32 years ago. And the police department is only the half of it; he took office two weeks after the BP blowout off Louisiana's shores and then he found that the city's finances were in meltdown.

"The oil spill's much worse than we ever thought," Mr Landrieu told the New York Times yesterday. "The budget's much worse, the dysfunction is much worse, the NOPD is much worse. But, you know, that's why I signed up."

For now Mr Landrieu has some margin with voters who remember his predecessor, Ray Nagin, with little affection. There will be relief if justice is done in the Danziger case and no one thinks the NOPD can be allowed to carry on as before. But reinstating New Orleans' "celebration of life" would be a tough test for any politician.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there