Kenneth Polite has served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana since 2013.
After more than three years in office as the city’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite is stepping down. Polite’s resignation, announced March 10, is effective March 24.
Polite has headed the Department of Justice’s Eastern District of Louisiana since September 2013, an appointee of President Barack Obama who has stayed on within the opening months of President Donald Trump’s administration. Polite will leave office despite the urging of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser to remain. According to an announcement from his office, Polite — a native New Orleanian who will continue to live in the city — is expected to announce his “his future endeavors, in both the public and private sectors” soon.
Polite followed former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, a long-serving top prosecutor who resigned in 2012
following controversy among prosecutors who were revealed to have posted provocative comments on nola.com. Polite’s resignation points to his success in office following "one of the most difficult periods” in its history. “He will depart after having focused on improving the office’s prosecutorial efficiency and transparency, strengthening its regional collaboration with both law enforcement and the residents they serve, and fostering greater community interest in both prevention and reentry as necessary tools for improving public safety,” the announcement says.
“I have enjoyed this great opportunity to serve as U.S. Attorney here in Southeast Louisiana,” Polite said in a statement. “More importantly, it has been the highest honor to lead this office’s outstanding employees who are committed to the ideals of collegiality, diligence, and professionalism. I am confident that these public servants will continue to ensure that justice reaches out to all residents of this region. Regardless of my title or position, I will always work to improve the lives of our region’s residents, especially our young people.”
At one of his first public appearances in office in 2013
, Polite — speaking to a crowd at Tulane University’s The Big Issue series — spoke candidly about losing his brother to gun violence in New Orleans. "To this day I'm wracked with some guilt about not impacting his life,” he said. “That is what I ask myself to do every day and what I'm asking you do to today, and what I'm asking you to do every day as the U.S. Attorney: Step out from behind your desk, step out from your safe homes, get out into our communities, get into our schools, get into our churches, and make a difference in the lives of those young men before it's too late."
Polite aimed to increase felony arrests and "focusing on a disproportionately small number of individuals responsible for a disproportionate large amount of the violent crime we see in our streets." In office, he increased the number of prosecutors handling violent crime and investigated corruption and civil rights violations through a newly formed “Public Integrity Unit.” The office also worked closely with law enforcement agencies on sweeping Multi-Agency Gang Unit arrests and convictions.
Under Polite, the office took down high-profile public officials like former Mayor Ray Nagin
, as well as health care workers and clinic operators involved in a multi-layered fraud case.
The office also points to the success of Polite’s anti-gun violence programs, as well as programs for at-risk youth and reentry programs for formerly incarcerated people.