Once again, the Mesa Police Department is searching for new leadership. Since 1980, when I transferred to the MPD, there have been nine appointed police chiefs and at least five acting chiefs. Average longevity works out to about three years per chief.
Some were good, some were really good, and some, we don’t need to talk about them. Some were fit and liked to lead, some were wired to manage and others, usually the micro-managers enamored with the power, had no business overseeing the singular most powerful and life changing entity in city government.
Picking a police chief is probably one of the most important decisions, if not the most important, a city manager will make. As goes the police department so goes the rest of the city, if you ask me. The police chief’s power can transcend the police department and shape the energy and direction of an entire city workforce.
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady has done a better than average job of picking chiefs. But his picks have never been able to develop and implement the full potential of the Mesa PD during their tenure. The blame for that failure could fall on the chief, city manger, mayor and council or even a police department that resists and obstructs change.
With the challenges facing policing that involve economics, community trust and organized criminal activity and career criminals, Mesa’s new chief had better be more than a just first class BS-er and have “it” together on day one.
As I looked over the backgrounds of the applicants, posted at: http://mynewsmesa.com/city-manager-brady-announces-4-finalists-mesa-police-chief-position/, I could see the candidates selected as finalists had the right “ticket punches.” The usual master’s degree, varied command experience and advanced police training from the FBI or a respected university. I’m sure they all have a long list of awards, recognition and accolades from any number of law enforcement and special interest groups.
No doubt the candidates can rattle off all the current warm and fuzzy trends that include “Community Policing,” “Coffee with a Cop,” “Community Engagement,” how to make cute Facebook posts and many other feel-good uses of police resources in the name of community trust.
But can they talk realistically about what they plan to do for those who have been the victim of serious crime or who live daily with real fear that they or a family member will fall victim to crime?
Do they really know how to make sure bad people go to jail or do they just know how to talk a good game?
Have the finalists ever been real cops who learned policing from the bottom up or have they spent their careers building their resume, taking tests and climbing the ladder?
While the primary focus is on Mesa, there also needs to be attention paid to the new chief’s experience and ability to not only work with the other chiefs of police in the region, but also to help lead the East Valley into a greater level of safety and law enforcement efficiency and quality.
Five communities, plus county islands and miles of freeway, border Mesa. Regional efforts, sharing and long-range planning will be essential if Mesa policing wants to keep pace with serious crime and remain affordable.
The much-vaunted East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center housed at the Mesa PD has failed to come even close to reaching its full potential.
But most importantly, will the new chief be able to lead, inspire, motivate and take care of Mesa PD’s 1,200 police officers and highly dedicated civilian employees who do the day in and day out dirty work of policing? Because if the new chief can’t get the most out of the workforce, all of the degrees, management schools, plaques on the walls, outward support from special interest groups along with political support from city power brokers won’t mean squat!
Mesa has a big decision to make. In many ways, the future of the city is at stake. Over the years, Mesa has dabbled with mediocrity when it comes to policing and it hurt everyone. They can’t afford to do that again. Only the best of the best will do this time around. That is if Mesa is really serious about crime?
– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.