That sound you heard last week coming from downtown Nashville was the mayor’s office lobbing artillery shells across the street into the Metro Police Department. To all appearances, Mayor Bill Purcell has officially dispatched his foot soldiers of reform into the well-defended, old-school, retro culture of the Metro Police Department. Our advice to hizzoner: If you’re hunting elephants, don’t bring a rabbit gun.
Purcell last week signed an executive order that cracks down on the matter of outside jobsso-called “secondary employment”among the police department’s top brass. He gave Police Chief Emmett Turner 90 days to rewrite the department’s secondary employment policy and banned the chief and assistant chiefs from taking second jobs.
The problems of secondary employment in the Police Department are well known. Several years ago, officers could own and operate their own private security companies. So, while they were working at the Police Department, they were often doing work for their own companies on the side. Any idiot could figure out that was a huge problem, but no one in charge wanted to change things. That’s because everyone was making oodles of money from the system, and top officers themselves were in on the take.
Another problem was that current Police Chief Turner wasn’t exactly a model of reform on the issue. Even as police chief, he took a one-night gig doing security work at Planet Hollywood. Which may explain why the press releases stated that Purcell was “ordering” Turner to write a new secondary employment policy. Turner wasn’t exactly burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to reform the system himself.
The management-minded Purcell historically has expressed full confidence in Turner’s role as police chief. While we fundamentally disagree with the mayor on thatand think there is plentiful evidence of Turner’s ineptitudewe applaud the mayor’s apparent resolve to do something to minimize the messes. The messes are numerous, and many of them have been uncovered by this very newspaper.
When, we wonder, will the messes stop? Let us pick a recent one, one that recently has made its way into the pages of The Tennessean.
The Metro Police Department apparently can’t figure a way out from under the thousands of arrest warrants it has yet to serve on people who have broken the law. It’s unimaginable to us that the department would be so short-staffed as to allow people to commit crimes and not be hauled in for justice. And yet the department appears to be of two minds about serving warrants.
Why, when it came time several weeks ago to serve an arrest warrant on Vanderbilt football star Jamie Winborne for driving with an expired driver’s license, did the department send a bevy of officers to arrest him for such a minor infraction? And who, for crying out loud, tipped off a local television reporter to be present when the arrest was served?
Why does the Police Department play these games, inflict harm on a Vanderbilt football player, and damage the reputation of the university in the process, when warrants for more serious infractionsyes, even raperemain outstanding? Why didn’t the department simply call Vanderbilt security and tell them to deliver Winborne? (We should mention that Turner has asked the Office of Professional Accountability to look into the matter.)
It’s a funny thing how the image of a city is projected to the outside world. We are known for a great football team, a wonderful music industry, solid tourism, a world-class university, and a pathetic police department. Is that what we want to be known for?
If the mayor is finally starting to move on the Police Department, as appears to be the case, he’s arrived at a very entrenched, immovable, ugly mess. While he’s had success getting rid of enormous amounts of dead wood throughout the Metro bureaucracyin the Fire Department, the Purchasing Department, the Benefit Board, and morehe may soon discover that this isn’t just a personnel war. This is going to be a culture war.
@Tony Clifton: It only took a week and a half to ring my bell. Funny…
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You can do it Pete. Feeding the trolls is pointless.
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