New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley has fired two officers and issued a letter of reprimand to a third in cases that sparked embarrassment and public outrage for the department in recent weeks.
At a news conference Thursday, Riley said officers Ashely Terry and Donyell Sanchell were fired after investigations by the department’s public integrity division.
Riley defended his department’s rank and file.
‘‘Ninety percent of the men and women in this police department do the right thing,’’ he said.
Sanchell was suspended after allegedly leading Mississippi River bridge police on a chase July 5. Authorities said he fled after being pulled over and later slapped a bridge police officer who followed him to his district station. He is scheduled for trial Aug. 6 in municipal court on two counts of battery. He also received citations for careless driving and hit-and-run.
Terry had been accused of drawing her weapon and screaming expletives in front of dozens of summer-camp children at a community center in the Treme neighborhood July 15.
Riley earlier suspended officer David Ellis, who responded to the incident involving Terry but filed no police report. Riley said a disciplinary hearing is slated for Ellis on Aug. 1.
Both cases stunned the city and generated a call from the New Orleans City Council for in-depth investigations. Riley on Wednesday was grilled by council members who want an independent monitor for the police department assigned to the city’s inspector general’s office.
A third incident began the string of embarrassments for Riley when Sgt. Robert Guidry, on his final shift before retirement from the force June 28, wore the department’s old-style light blue uniform shirt.
The shirt was phased out after Hurricane Katrina. Guidry, a 35-year veteran of the department, said he wore it to salute 18 colleagues who died in the line of duty.
Riley said Thursday that Guidry has been given a letter of reprimand.
Radio talk shows and bloggers picked up Guidry’s cause, criticizing Riley for taking action against the officer in the final 15 minutes of his employment. Riley also drew ire for his sense of priorities as the city struggles with a crime wave.
But it was the more serious Terry and Sanchell cases that focused public furor.
Riley said investigators worked quickly on the allegations against Terry and Sanchell. In the Terry case, he said, witnesses came forth quickly.
The incidents put an unwanted spotlight on the department, which despite millions of dollars of investment in equipment and other support has struggled to rebuild its ranks amid a surge of violent crime that accompanied the city’s rebuilding from Katrina. The storm struck Aug. 29, 2005, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
National Guard troops continue to patrol in some devastated areas and police have wrestled with drug-gang murders in some neighborhoods. The force, once almost 1,700 strong, is down to about 1,470 officers.
The state has repeatedly extended the stay of Guard troops to buy time for the department to recruit and train officers.
Mayor Ray Nagin appointed Riley, 50, in September 2005, less than a month after Katrina, after the resignation of then-Superintendent Eddie Compass.
Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer contributed to this story.