After public outcry, LaToya Cantrell decides not to hire former NOPD Chief Warren Riley

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she will not hire former NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley to serve as the city’s director of Homeland Security and Public Safety following public outcry about his potential employment.

“While I believe that Warren Riley is uniquely qualified for a role as our City’s Director of Homeland Security & Public Safety — with a resume that includes serving as the Federal Coordinating Officer overseeing seven federally declared disasters in just over four years— I have listened to the people of New Orleans on both sides, and I have decided not to move forward with his employment,” Cantrell said in a statement.

Cantrell’s initial decision to hire Riley was met with immediate backlash when the news was leaked to the press.

Riley released a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to Cantrell’s decision. He said he’s “deeply disappointed” and that the mayor’s decision “comes as a complete surprise.”

“Throughout the interview process, Mayor-Elect Cantrell indicated that she was impressed with my twenty 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. Appointed by two presidential administration’s as the lead federal coordinating officer, I managed fourteen federally declared disasters around the country. 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 adviser to the Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control on the Flint, Michigan water crisis. And, as a lecturer and keynote speaker, I have addressed international audiences about disaster management response and recovery.”

Riley oversaw a troubled police department after Hurricane Katrina and claimed ignorance when NOPD officers were implicated in the Danziger Bridge shootings. When Riley left, the NOPD had to enter into a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to turn NOPD around.

“Mr. Riley’s qualifications are undeniable … he has been a leader in crisis response and emergency preparedness on the national level. But here in New Orleans: the pain is too great,” Cantrell said in her prepared statement. “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.”

Riley said in his response that he wants to “set the record straight” when it comes to his term as NOPD superintendent.

“First and foremost, to all of those who lost loved ones during Katrina, they have always had my absolute sympathy and prayers. Related to the Danziger Bridge incident: At no time was I on the bridge. At no time did I have communications with officers during the incident. At
no time did I give any orders related to actions that transpired on the bridge. At that time, I was directing rescue operations from temporary police field office located at the Harrah’s Casino.

“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’s 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 this incident.”

Cantrell said her decision not to hire Riley sends a message that “the City government is not going to be a part of the problem.”

“I love New Orleans and was humbled to be called again to serve, under the first female Mayor, in the year of our Tricentennial,” Riley said in his response. “It is with great regret that I will not have the opportunity to bring my commitment to community and wealth of national and international emergency management and law enforcement expertise to the great, historic and progressive City of New Orleans.”