Elected Versus Appointed Police Chief?

 

I’ve been working on this note for a long time. It started as a mass of competing thoughts and ideas before the last charter review in 2006. I put a draft on paper a couple times, including at the beginning of the current charter review. It’s still a work in progress but it’s to the point it needs to be part of the discussion.

After much thought I am convinced that the real issue is not elected vs. appointed chief. The real issue is how do we have a law enforcement and local justice system in the city that is professional, effective, efficient, competent and capable and trustworthy, accountable, and connected to the community.

We want a police force that is not a political tool, protection racket or revenue stream. When you reduce the issue down to a question of how do we choose the department head, the voters keep voting for a local connection and direct-to-the-voters accountability.

What needs to happen is a vision and a process that addresses more than just who gets to sit behind the desk every four years or so. Our city needs a system and process that is connected, accountable, and trusted and that creates an effective, efficient, professional law enforcement system that is an integral part of the community not an occupying force or protection racket.

There are basically three groups and three needs that should be satisfied for any workable system.

City hall needs a department head that can manage the department. Handle a budget. Keep the personnel rosters fully manned. That is, someone to deal with the numbers. The mantra of city hall might as well be if you can’t measure it and tie to a budget item, it isn’t real. The pressure from the top will be keep expenses low and bring in revenue. Again, if it doesn’t show up on a fiscal year budget or statistics from the FBI, it isn’t real.

The second group, comprised of the members of the police force, needs leadership. They will be the first to tell you that management and leadership are very different things. They would generally agree with the Army definition of leadership as influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. They would also add keep their officers safe and get them home every night.

The last, and most important, group is the citizens and people of the city.

That is, the community as a whole composed of each individual in the city. The community needs a police chief and department that they trust. They need to know and understand the beliefs and values of the managers and leaders in the department. They need to trust that the “to protect and serve” stenciled on the patrol cars is not just a cliché used for public relations. They need transparency so they can trust that when they get pulled over for some minor offense it really is for safety, not because some bean counter in city hall thinks the department needs to do more to generate revenue. They need to be sure that when they ask for help they can trust that that’s what they will get.

With all the negative press about police in other parts of the county, it’s comforting for the citizens of San Angelo to be able to walk up to the chief and say, “We put you into this office, and we can take you out.”

I’m for maintaining the elected police chief system in San Angelo.

Sincerely,

Jim Turner

Comments

Comments

This letter was published a bit before I had planned and a sentence was added at the end. I am not really in favor of the elected chief. Having watched several elections and the problems with that occur i don't think that electing a chief really satisfies all three needs. I also don't favor a chief that is appointed by and only accountable to city hall whether that's the city manager or city council. We on the charter review committee are still working on the best way to select a chief. We're not done yet.

I was raised in San Angelo and have always maintained that the present charter position of having an elected chief of police is the only way to have a responsible person in that office. San Angelo relishes a national spotlight in having this be an elective office and that should always be the case. Do not change the city charter regarding this question, keep the politicos out of San Angelo's safety.

Let's pull the emotion out of it. Would everyone who loves seeing garbage dragged down the alleys by stray dogs and dodging blowing odd boxes, flimsy barrels, and ripped sacks that the wind is flinging around just stand up and be counted. I lived for years in Phoenix and exited the city in 1984. At that time, the conversion to this type of trash pickup was several years in our past. At the time, Scottsdale held the patent on the trucks and the barrels. For those of us with alleys, we carried sacks out when they were full and filled the barrels. Recycling was a new thing and we had only a plastic box the size of a file box and most of us were a little confused about what went into it. Here it is, 2015. I am in Phoenix to visit grandkids about 4 times a year. I have never seen trash blowing around and never seen tipped barrels, nor do I hear whining homeowners, begging to buy new little barrels twice a year. My son's household of 4 manages to get their barrel for recycling about 2/3 full weekly and the regular trash, maybe half full. I believe they inherited their barrels from previous owners --- 14 years ago --- and I noticed a 10 inch split in the plastic when I was rolling the conventional trash out 2 weeks ago. Now it may be, as is the way of the world, that someone in our fair city has cheapened the operation by purchasing cheesy barrels with bad hinges and defective wheels and flimsy plastic, but the concept is sound and we need to just cowboy up and move on into the future. It may be they have bought barrels designed with poor balance. I can't swear by their choices. The ones in Phoenix are easily rolled and I'm nearly 70. Put your foot on the bottom brace, tip toward you to lower the center of gravity, and pull the barrel. Pushing is a recipe for trouble unless you are on a totally smooth surface. Insist on excellence and hold them to their word. Get over it.

I should point out that they now have equal sized recycling and conventional trash barrels, about chest high.

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