Interim NOPD Chief Woodfork picks new deputy superintendents

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 9:10 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - After a tough first week as interim chief, Michelle Woodfork is hoping for an arrest soon in the high-profile murder of a comedian at the downtown Rouses. Woodfork is announcing two new deputy superintendents as she lays the groundwork for a more effective department, which she hopes to grow by 300 officers within the next two years.

“We may not get to 1200 in a year but we may make it to 1000 but every step we make is important,” said interim NOPD Supt. Michelle Woodfork.

When former Marc Morial tapped Richard Pennington to cut the city’s murder rate in half in 1994, the New Orleans Police Department boasted 1700 officers.

“I think they have about half that now and you cannot adequately and equitably police the city,” said Morial.

Armed with new incentives, interim chief Woodfork says hiring 300 officers will be a top priority. She says Captain Jonnette Williams, considered a frontrunner for the superintendent’s job, will be in charge of recruitment.

“Chief Williams is doing an excellent job, she is smart and intelligent,” said Woodfork in an extensive one-on-one interview with Fox 8.

Woodfork has also tapped veteran district commanders Hans Ganthier and Nick Gernon as her deputy superintendents.

“I think those were two great choices for the positions they’re going to be in,” she said.

And she says reform is on the way after a series of Fox 8 investigations into problems with NOPD details.

“We still have some work to do with that, we are definitely going to be examining the whole detail system,” she said.

Many are calling for a national search for a new permanent police chief. And Woodfork says she expects to get fair consideration.

She also says that the team will be instrumental in creating a crime plan, which many have sought.

“I have put together some things on my own and I’m gonna meet with my executive team and see what their plan entails and if they want to add to it,” Woodfork says.

Though Woodfork has 32 years on the NOPD, her first week as chief has been rough, after a mass shooting in the 9th ward, the murder of comedian Brandon Montrell, at Rouse’s, and another broad daylight killing on Bourbon St. Still, she pledges to work 24-7, hopefully making a difference.

“It’s important for me not to see another mother to cry over her child. It’s important to me to know that my mom is going to be OK to go to Walgreens and not feel like she’s gonna be carjacked,” Woodfork said.

Chief Woodfork says she will continue to work to strengthen partnerships with federal and state law enforcement partners. She was also surprised when she got the call from Mayor Cantrell to become police chief. She said the position at that point...wasn’t on her radar.

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