New Orleans police chief resigned after weeks of nightmare

The mayor calls him a hero, but others criticize departing New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, saying the department failed to keep order in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Compass, 47, gave no reason for announcing his resignation Tuesday. Neither he nor New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin would say whether he had been pressured to step down.

His resignation follows the storm's turbulent aftermath, during which looters ransacked stores, evacuees pleaded for help, rescue workers came under fire and nearly 250 police officers left their posts.

"Every man in a leadership position must know when it's time to hand over the reins," said Compass, who spent 26 years policing his native city. "I'll be going on in another direction that God has for me."

"It's a sad day in the city of New Orleans when a hero makes a decision like this," said Nagin, who appointed Compass in mid-2002. "He leaves the department in pretty good shape and with a significant amount of leadership."

On the streets of the Algiers neighborhood, the first in Orleans Parish to be open to residents, some said Compass' resignation was no loss.

Donald De Bois Blanc said he had complained to police about looting in the hurricane's aftermath, and gotten only shrugs in return.

"I don't think Compass did a terribly good job," he said. "The department was inept."

Others praised him.

"He was stretched beyond the limits of human endurance," said Ruth Marciante, pausing outside a supermarket. "Under the circumstances I think he did a superhuman job. I wish the next guy who takes that job a lot of luck."

As the city slipped into anarchy during the first few days after Katrina, the 1,700-member police department suffered a crisis. Many officers deserted their posts, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. Two officers Compass described as friends committed suicide.


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