So the police chief is out, as is the HR director and, presumably in the near future many other department heads. I cannot say I am surprised. As I commented some time ago, it is the mayor’s team to put together. Everyone who was there in May is a product of the old, council-manager form of government. Furthermore, any executive taking over any major enterprise must be expected to put people in place at direct report positions who owe their allegiance to her. Still, how the change was made in the police chief position bears some comments.
First, there is no public context to the change. There has been little or no explanation of why the change was made, or how it fits into Bach’s vision for the city or how he plans to get us from here to there. (Indeed, has Bach even articulated a vision for Colorado Springs?)
Second, if, as one of the local media outlets has suggested, the police chief is taking the fall for failures of officers under him (one officer has been charged with felony possession of child pornography, another for false reporting), then it’s like firing the manager of the ball club when the players on the field have a losing season. Every police department must stress having its officers leading exemplary lives, setting an example for the community. But the department still hires from the culture in which we all live.
Third, the era of working one’s way up through the ranks to the top has come to an end. Under a council-manager form of government, Council, of course, only had the authority to hire/fire the city manager, who alone appointed department heads and otherwise organized city government. That person almost always had a long resume of employment in public entity administration. Now, the chief executive will always come from outside city hall, outside the ranks of career government employment. While this carries the pitfall of cronyism, it is also much more likely that leadership positions will be filled with people from outside the organization, who have not made a career in government service.
Finally, a few thoughts (pure speculation) on why the change was made. City government is facing growing and severe challenges: demand for services is outstripping the ability to pay for those services. Simply look at the budget projections. A standard method of cutting costs in the private sector is by replacing full time personnel with part time employees and/or outsourcing services. A year ago I had a conversation with the police chief asking him to comment on the solution being used by other, albeit smaller, communities across the country of outsourcing police services to county sheriff’s offices. The chief was very quick with a raft of reasons why there was no way he would consider such a proposition. Perhaps, the outgoing chief is not innovative enough to meet the needs of the future.