NEW ORLEANS -- To reduce racial tensions over the police shootings of four blacks, Mayor Ernest Morial has accepted the resignation of the police chief and says he will initiate an independent investigation.
Morial Monday announced the resignation of Police Superintendent James Parsons, effective Dec. 1, and said he would ask the City Council for money to hire a special investigator to conduct a study of the shootings in the Algiers section.
The city's first black mayor said all officers involved in the shootings -- which occurred earlier this month during investigations of the shooting death of a white officer -- had been relieved of their regular duties pending completion of the investigation.
The special investigator and his staff would be the fourth legal agency looking into the incidents, which began Nov. 12 -- the day Reginald Ferdinand, a black, was shot during an attempted drug arrest in Algiers.
The following day, James Billy Jr., Reginald Miles and Sherry Singleton were killed in separate raids as police attempted to arrest Billy and Miles on charges of killing officer Gregory Neupert. Police said the three were shot after they drew guns and began firing at officers.
Black groups in the tense Fischer Housing Project, in the vicinity of all the shooting incidents, immediately began calling for Parsons' firing and for an independent investigation of the deaths.
Morial said Monday, however, that Parsons had discussed resigning months before the Algiers troubles. Under questioning, the mayor refrained from connecting the superintendent's decision to pressure on the city administration to oust him.
Parsons came to the city in 1978 after running the Birmingham police department and almost immediately faced a stiff challenge to his authority. Police went out on strike in February 1979, forcing the cancellation of the city's Mardi Gras celebration.
Morial Monday commended Algiers residents for showing restraint and holding peaceful meetings with city officials and representatives of national civil rights groups.
'They have raised pertinent and responsible questions that must be answered by a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding these incidents,' he said.
The mayor said the special investigator would be authorized to look into the Neupert shooting, to ascertain whether the three people shot Nov. 13 were involved in the slaying and to determine whether their civil rights were violated.
San Francisco attorney Mark Lane, who is representing relatives of some of the shooting victims, said neither the resignation nor the suspensions would satisfy the black community.
'Every single police officer involved in these murders, including those who planned the murders, must be indicted and convicted,' said Lane, who formerly represented Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones and was present in Guyana when Rep. Leo Ryan of California was killed.
In an apparent further attempt to avoid heightening racial tensions, Morial said the Justice Department had agreed with his suggestion that the trial of Miami police officer Charles Ververka be moved from the city.
That case, which grew out of the racial violence in Miami last summer, had been scheduled to go to trial in New Orleans Dec. 1. It will now be held in Dallas.