DANGER: When Politicians Override a Police Chief Appointment

What do three politicians – a lawyer, a financial guy, and a doctor know about running a police department? And what do they know compared to three former police chiefs (two of whom are also attorneys), a professional assessment executive (also a former police chief), and a professional Town Manager? Very little! Which is why the Town of Cohasset took the important power step of appointing a police chief away from the politicians and gave it to the Town Manager.

Three politicians have not only undermined the BEST Town Manager Cohasset has ever had and its Town Manager Act, but also the Police Chief they intend to have appointed. He will never have the respect or the legitimacy to be effective in that job, because he didn’t earn it. Everyone will know that the BEST guy was rejected in favor of the guy who didn’t measure up but had friends in high places.

Of course, there are places in other states where voters elect the top Law Enforcement Officer, the Police Chief, but in Massachusetts we do not. Some towns appoint a chief based on the civil service exam. In that case, the top scorer gets the job. But in communities across the Commonwealth where residents want a chief who has a broad range of abilities and qualifications, many have used Assessment Centers; and of course, relied on the judgement of their professional Town Manager.

So back to the politicians who know more then their Town Manager. Their discussion and rationale for rejecting his appointment was prearranged, weak at best, and easy to see through. Three selectmen were committed to the internal candidate – no matter how PERFECT the Town Manager’s choice was. Forget for a moment that the politicians’ choice didn’t measure up – in answer to Selectman Schubert’s direct question, the head of the Assessment Center emphasized that there was “great disparity” between the candidates, and forget for a moment that their guy was promoted before without facing any competition.

A Police Department’s Chain of Command requires that the Chief be accountable to the Town Manager and the Town Manager alone. Cohasset will soon have a Police Department and Chief beholden to the politicians, the police union and the power brokers who put him there, and not to the community as whole. Cohasset will have a “rogue” Police Chief who is not responsible to his boss, the Town Manager, or to the larger community.

Community Policing depends on that bond between the Chief and the town. You cannot foster effective community policing – which relies heavily on a relationship between the police and the community they serve – when the community feels that their chief cop has no legitimacy. The community knows that the most qualified, independent and professional choice was rejected in favor of the politicians’ choice.

The “Chain of Command” has been broken and the police and their chief will be accountable to whom– not their boss, the Town Manager, and not the residents of Cohasset. Who then? The Cohasset Mariner and Mary Ford? The power
brokers who make You Tube endorsements and put up lawn signs? Certainly not the silent majority whose discontent with this department is well known and long standing.

In answer to numerous e-mails about where this goes next? It’s our understanding that Town Manager Chris Senior has pulled his appointment of Captain Joe Comperchio in order that Selectmen would not have to repeat their meeting and vote the right motion to reject his appointment. With two members of the former government structure on the Board of Selectmen, one who served as chair, albeit briefly, it’s interesting that selectmen got their own motion wrong.


© Copyright 2015 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed