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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Capt. Michelle Woodfork will become interim superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department starting Thursday.

Tuesday morning, Mayor Cantrell made the announcement, making Woodfork the first female leader of the department.

Woodfork will take over on Supt. Shaun Ferguson’s last day. Earlier this month, Ferguson announced his retirement after 24 years with NOPD.

“I would love for her to do so well as interim that there’s no question she becomes our permanent,” Councilman Oliver Thomas said. “I think everybody should think like that.”

Capt. Woodfork, who grew up in New Orleans East, started with the NOPD in January of 1991 as a patrol officer in the 7th district. Since then, she has held various roles across five districts.

In 2012, Woodfork launched the Alternative Police Response Unit. In 2021, she became a captain of the Management Services Bureau.

Woodfork said, she is a legacy within the NOPD. Her father and uncle, Warren Woodfork, both held high ranks in the department.

Watch Capt. Michelle Woodfork remarks

Council President Helena Moreno released this statement:

“The New Orleans Police Department and the people of this city deserve the most qualified leader to permanently replace Chief Shaun Ferguson. Appointing an interim Chief and launching a national search will provide the opportunity to find that person. I appreciate the Mayor listening to the City Council along with numerous community and business groups who called for this process. Congratulations to Michelle Woodfork for being named interim Chief and being the first Black woman to lead the department. I look forward to collaborating and working with her to bring reforms to the department and overall becoming a much safer city.”

Last week, the City Council and Inspector General Ed Michel called on Mayor Cantrell to conduct a national search for superintendent. Michel’s letter to the mayor states: “A transparent, national search conducted by a nationally recognized firm with subject matter expertise would foster confidence within the NOPD.”

Cantrell did not explicitly say which firms were options to lead the search but said it was a “narrow field” to choose from.

“National searches that have been led by cities across this country in this current environment around law enforcement and public safety, you know where those cities have turned to? Your city, the City of New Orleans,” Cantrell said.

New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation Chair Elizabeth Boh said, she hopes with a little help, it will be a smooth transition for Woodfork.

“She will have the advantage of having Fausto Pichardo with her to give her recommendations, help her, see what improvements can be made in the department, especially in the area of recruitment and retention,” Boh said.

When asked how long Pichardo would stay with the department, Mayor Cantrell said, she hopes to see him in New Orleans for at least another 3-6 months.

An announcement on his stay with the NOPD is expected later this week.