If one of the six men now interviewing for the city’s top cop position gets the nod from Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu, the new chief will be stepping up to lead a larger law enforcement agency, one with more violent crime and thornier management issues, than the one he oversees now.

On Tuesday, a Landrieu-appointed selection committee quizzed each of the finalists, who run law enforcement agencies of varying sizes across the country, and boast resumes with very different policing backgrounds.

Two of the six candidates have deep ties to the New Orleans Police Department: former Assistant Superintendent Ronal Serpas and former Capt. Louis Dabdoub. The four others do not. They are John Harrington, who is stepping down next month as chief of police in St. Paul, Minn.; Bruce Marquis; John Batiste, chief of the Washington State Patrol and a Hammond native; and Ronald Davis, police chief of East Palo Alto, Calif.

Of the group, Davis now oversees the smallest department: East Palo Alto’s force numbers just 39 officers. Serpas, in Nashville, and Batiste, in Washington, each manage about 1,300 commissioned officers. The NOPD has roughly 1,600 officers, plus hundreds of civilian personnel.

When it comes to violent crime, none of the candidates’ respective cities comes close to matching the mean streets of New Orleans, the country’s most murderous city for several years running. In New Orleans, 174 people were slain last year.

Nashville, by comparison, had 80 murders, despite having roughly twice the population of New Orleans. Norfolk, slightly smaller than New Orleans, recorded 43 murders last year, while St. Paul, which is around the same size, had 20. East Palo Alto, at about one-tenth New Orleans’ size, had eight homicides last year.

Source: Brendan McCarthy for The Times-Picayune.

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