NOPD Task Force Update 3
Date: Fri, Apr. 02, 2010
It’s been a challenging week for the NOPD Task Force. One member of the Task Force, Danatus King of the NAACP, has stepped down over discomfort with the police chief selection process. Additional Task Force members, including myself, have continued to raise concerns about the transparency of the process. Mayor-Elect Landrieu acknowledged that he was asking us to take on a difficult responsibility when he first convened the Task Force. To find and recommend 3-4 excellent prospects for Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department in under three months is ambitious, to say the least. Many of the challenges facing the Task Force are a function of the delicacy involved in balancing a rushed process with a thorough one.
By way of an update this week, I can offer some of my concerns about this search process, and one overriding hope. The hopeful point in this: Every member the NOPD Task Force is clearly dedicated to help find the strongest possible police chief for New Orleans.
My main concerns are:
Spotty internal communications. An unfortunate dearth of internal updates and notices as steps in the search process have been considered, decided upon, and implemented has led to expressed feelings of disengagement on the part of some Task Force members, including myself. Meeting to meeting, there are differing understandings among Task Force members of what has been discussed and settled upon. And with no written documentation of these meetings available to us, valuable time has been spent re-tracing conversations to sort out what was actually said and decided.
Lack of access to search materials and participants. The search firm International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) was contracted by the Transition team to undertake much of the groundwork, management, and assessment of the search. Indeed, the first cut of applicants will take place entirely at the discretion of this international organization, with no accountability to members of the Task Force regarding the basis for selecting semi-finalists. While the IACP╒s expertise and professionalism are well established, they do not have a track record of finding law enforcement leaders suitable to New Orleans specifically. ╩I am far from convinced, for instance, that a sensitive strategy to dealing with locally specific cultural practices, which many of you have voiced as a particular concern, has any place in IACP╒s assessment tools. I have tried to contact the IACP personally, to inquire to what degree the public input we sought from you some weeks ago is being put to use in their assessments. To date, I have not heard back from them.
Timeline. An incredibly short timeline for this entire process has demanded a rush to judgment regarding many steps in the process. Mr. Landrieu had expressed the hope that the Task Force would research several search firms before selecting one, but this was not able to happen, and the IACP was contracted without discussion by the full Task Force. The first public meeting was held with very little notice, and a survey seeking public input was only very briefly available. Scheduling a╩ second public meeting, as pledged by the Mayor-Elect, is on hold. We have not had time to consider thoroughly many concerns raised by Task Force members (this has been compounded by the lack of documentation of prior discussions).
Mayor-Elect Landrieu brought this NOPD Task Force together to ensure that as many perspectives as possible would be at the table as a new Superintendent was sought. It is hardly surprising that this open approach to such a crucially important decision has resulted in some disagreements and conflicting views. Indeed, it would be an aberration, and probably disingenuous, if we were to all feel the same way about the wide range of considerations that must come into play during such a search. My underlying concern with the NOPD Task Force to date is not that I disagree with some decisions, but that our perspectives and talents are not being productively utilized and implemented into the review and selection process.
It begins to seem ironic that so much attention has been focused on the need for transparency and accountability in the new NOPD management structure. Mayor-Elect Landrieu set the tone for this expectation by launching a police chief selection process that would itself be accountable to a broad range of community voices. I hope to have good news in next week╒s update about improved engagement of all of these voices: Everybody wants this to be a successful beginning to a newly and equitably safe era in New Orleans. In the meantime, please send me your feedback, which continues to guide my involvement in the process.
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