NEW ORLEANS (KLFY) – On the TV show NCIS: New Orleans, agents work in a spacious, comfortable, high tech office space. It’s actually a sound stage in Jefferson Parish. Their office exterior is on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter.
But in real life, the NCIS office is on the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse. Jeffrey Norton is one of two NCIS special agents assigned to the New Orleans office. They investigate crimes involving Sailors and Marines and threats against the Department of the Navy.
“Sexual assaults, robberies, burglaries, and once in a while we do get a murder here,” Norton explained.
Real life is very different from the TV show, which seems to have a murder in just about every episode. It can take months, or even years to bring a case to trial, which in the military is called a court martial – unlike the TV show where cases are solved in an episode or two.
NCIS Supervisory Special Agent Erik Peterson oversees the NCIS offices in New Orleans, Gulfport, and Meridian, Miss.
“It’s not all, let’s get our gear on and go out and do the search warrant, arrest the bad guy, there’s an awful lot of paperwork that goes into it behind the scenes as well,” Peterson said.
Norton also has an office at the Marine Corps Support Facility in New Orleans — about 13 miles away from Belle Chasse. NCIS agents will bring cases involving Marines to the attention of the staff judge advocate.
“We work close with Jeff, NCIS agents all over the country,” explained Lt. Col. Kasey Shidel, the legal adviser to the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.
The judge advocates here and Marine Corps prosecutors in Quantico, Va., decide what charges will be filed in a criminal case.
“There’s a lot that goes into the investigative piece of this, the decision making, the warrants, the searches, I mean that takes months,” Shidel explained.
The New Orleans courtroom handles courts-martial for all Marine Corps Reserve units across the country. That includes reservists and active duty Marines who are assigned to those units. Everyone associated with the case is flown to New Orleans for the court martial.
“I’d say this is probably the nicest courtroom in the United States Marine Corps. It’s state of the art. It has probably the best technology that the Marine Corps has to offer,” said Shidel.
Criminal cases can be expensive to investigate and prosecute. NCIS agents play a critical role in them from start to finish. There’s a lot of paperwork and stuff that honestly wouldn’t make for very interesting television. But the agents we talked to said the TV show does a pretty good job of showing viewers what NCIS is all about.
“So it’s been a very positive thing for us as an agency because people really know who we are and for the most part they know a lot about what we do and what our mission is as well,” said Peterson.
The show has also given the agency name recognition it never had before.
The New Orleans agents often have to travel within the state to do interviews for other NCIS offices. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has more than 165 locations around the world. Peterson said most NCIS agents were law enforcement officers before joining the agency.