Hurricane Katrina: One Year Later, Part 2: Eddie Compass

Forced Out?

"I'm going to ask you to respect my privacy, respect my decision, and just respect my right to be by myself."


With these words, Eddie Compass resigned as New Orleans police chief on September 27, 2005. The move was unexpected, and sent shockwaves through the community, including many of Compass's own officers.

Dr. Phil catches up with Eddie for a heart-to-heart talk. They meet in the exact spot where Dr. Phil comforted Eddie following the hurricane a year ago, and Eddie introduces Dr. Phil to his toddler, Marlin.

"How you doing, buddy?" says Dr. Phil to the child. "You weren't in the picture when I first met your daddy, but you don't know that."

"No. This man helped your daddy a lot," says Eddie.

Dr. Phil remarks at how different the spot where they stand looks a year later. "Can you believe that when you look around?"

"It's amazing," says Eddie. "It's like a tale of two cities."

"Well, did you think a year ago that you and I would be standing here again and you'd have this one in your left arm?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No, I thought a year ago I'd still be the chief of police," Eddie responds.

As they walk along, Eddie tells Dr. Phil, "I've got a little gift for you. I want to give you my badge. It's too much for me. I want you to have that. That's one of my most prized possessions."


"Well, Eddie, I don't know what to say." Dr. Phil exclaims. "Are you serious? Are you sure you want me to have this?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I couldn't think of a better person to give it to," says Eddie. When Dr. Phil asks why, he says, "At my lowest point in my life, you just don't realize what you did for me. I had so much guilt on me …
and I couldn't get it out! And when you talked to me, I was able to get that guilt out of my system. You let me know it wasn't my fault. I was wrestling with those demons the whole time I was dealing with Katrina, plus my daughter, they told me she was raped. That was weighing heavily, even though I'm glad it wasn't true. But I never dealt with all those things, and I was worried about the men and women of the police department having somewhere to stay.
A lot of people talk, but you came and stepped up to the plate and you helped a lot of people and that's the least I can do for you."

Dr. Phil tells Eddie that he will accept the badge under one condition. "I'm going to take this home, and I'm going to frame it in a shadow box, and if you ever want it back, you call me and I'll give it to you because your daughter may grow up and want this, but it's going to be safe, under glass in my office, OK?" Eddie agrees. "I'm honored that you would share this with me," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil tells Eddie that he wants to cut to the question everybody in America wants to know. "Why did you leave so quickly?"

"No one person is more important than the organization," says Eddie. "The mayor sent me an e-mail, told me to come up with a 30- to 60-day exit plan. He was very upset that I had been on television. He was upset that I had been on your show. He told me, 'Don't go on TV anymore,' without his permission or Sally Forman, who's the person who's in charge of his public relations. And I told him, I said 'Mr. Mayor, I did not go on TV without Sally's permission like you told me,' but he told me, he said I've done a great job for the city but he didn't think I could do any more for the police department. And the reason I didn't say this when I retired was because there were so many people on the police force who were supporting me that if they knew the mayor and I had a conflict, it would have devastated the police department. And Chief Reilly was taking over a department that had a lot of problems and he did not need to take over a department that was fragmented."

"So, you got fired," Dr. Phil concludes.

"Yeah," says Eddie.

 Dr. Phil reveals that he has spoken to Mayor Nagin earlier in the day. "I said, 'Did you fire Eddie Compass?' and he said, 'Oh, no, not at all.'"
"Well, I can show you the e-mail," Eddie replies. "He even suggested in the e-mail that I write a book, I run for criminal sheriff " he gave me all these suggestions of other careers to take."


"Well, he told me those were your ideas, that you quit so you could go write a book and " "

"Well, have I written a book?" Eddie interjects. "And like I said, I didn't want that type of controversy going on because you knew the situation with Katrina."

"Sure," says Dr. Phil, adding that Eddie was only few short years from retirement.

"Exactly," Eddie agrees. "As a matter of fact, leaving early cost me over $300,000. Like I always say, if you're going to be a real leader, a real leader has to take the hit. And I had to take the hit for the department. Could you imagine the problems the department would have with half the people being loyal to me? And for the record, I have no hard feelings against the mayor, I have no problems with the mayor. It's his prerogative to hire and fire whom he wants. The truth has to come out because it's too long, and I need to get some closure with this."

Eddie addresses some of the criticisms he faced in the days after Katrina hit.


"During the hurricane, the first 48 hours, I was up. Then, the next day I got three hours sleep. Then I was working 21 hours with three hours sleep for six or seven days. People said, 'Look at the chief. Look how he looks. He's on some type of drugs.' I wasn't on any type of drugs " I was tired! But people don't want to hear that.

"Then it was situations where someone would ask me questions at 10:00. I would give an answer. Someone would ask me the same question at 11:30. Well, the situation has changed. But when they show the news at 5:00, they don't show that this guy asked me this at 10:00, and this guy asked me this at 11:30.
They just show me giving two different answers to the same question. You can't defend yourself with those types of things."

Dr. Phil continues, "Well, I believe that had it not been for you and your police force who gave up sleep, gave up being with their families, gave up evacuating like so many others did, this city could have spun into chaos. You were there when New Orleans needed you and they will forever be in your debt."