New Orleans mayor names first Black woman as interim police chief

Michelle Woodfork worked as a lieutenant when a drunk motorist crashed into a crowd on the Krewe of Endymion parade route in 2017, breaking her leg and nearly ending her three-decade NOPD career.

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A Black woman will lead the New Orleans Police Department, the first time in the history of the department for a woman of any ethnicity.

According to WDSU News and, Capt. Michelle Woodfork, a lifelong resident of New Orleans East, will take over for retiring superintendent Shaun Ferguson on an interim basis.

​Woodfork joined the NOPD on Jan. 27, 1991 and has served for 32 years, according to WDSU. In that time, she has held the positions of patrol officer, sergeant, detective, lieutenant and captain in five of the department’s eight districts. She worked for the Sex Crimes/Child Abuse Unit for 12 years.

Michelle Woodfork NOPD
Michelle Woodfork has been tapped as the first woman of any ethnicity to lead the New Orleans Police Department, taking over as interim chief following the retirement at year’s end of Supt. Shaun Ferguson. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/WWLTV)

“The seed to serve and protect my community was planted, and today, I am the living representation of their legacy,” Woodfork said of her family in a statement. “I love this job. It is me. I am laser-focused on leading this department by working with community members, leaders, and the men and women of the NOPD with the goal of protecting and serving the citizens and visitors of New Orleans.”

Continued Woodfork, “Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by excellent policing and law enforcement as I watched both my father and uncle protect and serve the people of our city as NOPD officers.”

Woodfork, who in contrast to other superintendents has never been in charge of a police district, is the niece of Warren Woodfork, a former NOPD superintendent and the city’s first Black person to hold that post, according to

Mayor LaToya Cantrell, while announcing Woodfork’s appointment Tuesday, also said she would broaden her search for the permanent police chief position to the entire country and employ a consultant to assist her in making a decision. The consultant will also consider potential applicants within the NOPD, according to WDSU.

Woodfork is under consideration for the permanent position, as is another captain, Jonette Williams. If the mayor appoints a police chief after Jan. 1, she will be required to secure council approval because of a change in the city charter that takes effect then, according to published reports.

“The New Orleans Police Department and the people of this city deserve the most qualified leader to permanently replace Chief Shaun Ferguson,” said Helena Moreno, the council president, WDSU reports. “Appointing an interim Chief and launching a national search will provide the opportunity to find that person.”

According to, Woodfork was a lieutenant when a drunk motorist crashed into a crowd on the Krewe of Endymion parade route in 2017, breaking her leg and nearly ending her career. She was one of 30 people injured in the incident. Meanwhile, the interim chief has also had some disciplinary issues during her career for which she would receive suspensions and a demotion.

Woodfork returned to the force after her injuries, was promoted last year to captain and currrently heads the NOPD’s Management Services Bureau. Her first day on the job will be Thursday, WDSU reported.

“Congratulations to Michelle Woodfork for being named interim Chief and being the first Black woman to lead the department,” Moreno said. “I look forward to collaborating and working with her to bring reforms to the department and overall becoming a much safer city.”

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