Welcome to town. We mean that. We’re a friendly people.
Someone soon will be calling you from Leadership Nashville to invite you to join next year’s class, and the Welcome Wagon complimentary fruit basket is almost certainly on its way.
Other than that, man, we don’t envy you. You’re inheriting a dysfunctional department, rife with ugly political machinations and nasty turf wars, abysmal morale, an off-duty system riddled with conflicts of interest, an entrenched good ol’ boy network, racial strife and virtually no leadership. As if that weren’t enough, your department has a terrible public relations problem that reaches virtually every demographic stripe across our fair city.
This is just for starters.
Keep in mind that three of your top managers wanted your job, andtheir recent public statements of goodwill notwithstandingthey’re all probably hoping you’ll flop. We’ve written a fair share over the years about the manifold troubles in the department, and were among those who believed that only an outsider could right the floundering ship down on James Robertson Parkway. We remain skeptical that any one human can fix the darn place. But we’re pulling for you, Chief.
As you prepare to tackle your first year, you’re well aware that you may yet step on landmines left for you by your new colleagues. We hope this 10-step insider’s guide may help you find your way.
That training academy in Siberia has Deb Faulkner’s name all over it. The local police union actively supported Mayor Bill Purcell in his last election, and then strongly backed acting Chief Deb Faulkner for your job. The FOP feels betrayed by your selection; they’re already gunning for you. Faulkner has been incredibly tight with the FOP for so long that she will still have a well-positioned power base. Her fans in the community are numerous too. But she is not a reformer, which is what this department desperately needs. Find a place for Faulkner where she can’t bother you. Trust us on this one.
Gut your off-duty policy, whatever it is. It’s a nightmare. PERF, the police consultants, tried to fix the problems associated with police officers working after-hours jobs after this newspaper exposed the thorny problems there. But the moonlighting policy is still a mess. Send somebody smart out to Kansas City, Mo., to see how that force handles the secondary employment issue. Copy that policy. Your force will yell and scream at you. Let them whine.
Stand by your lady. Faulkner undermined Kennetha Sawyers, the straight-shooting civilian attorney who runs Internal Affairs, at every turn in ways both petty and venal. This is the department that is responsible for investigating wrongdoing by cops themselves. You must rebuild the community’s faith in Internal Affairs by giving Sawyers all the support she didn’t get under Faulkner.
Help, your department’s PR image is on fire! Get some communications help. Quickly. Granted, spokesman Don Aaron has had to play the sorry hand he was dealt by this department. And he does a fine job at the scene of a crime and being responsive to the media, which, let’s face it, represent most of his job. But Aaron’s gift is not in shaping a public image for the department and representing the face of Nashville’s police force to Middle Tennessee. Perhaps that’s a full-time job in and of itself. Find someone to do it.
Stomp on the FOP. Stomp hard. The local Fraternal Order of Police is a reactionary outfit run by white officers for the financial and personal benefit of other white officers. Their leadership is borderline racist, thoroughly self-serving, politically shrewd and in desperate need of being taken out to the woodshed. Police chiefs here have kowtowed to the FOP for far too long. If the FOP leadership is not calling for your head on a platter within 12 months, we’ll be the first to wonder if you are too timid for the job.
Go see Stevehe’s down the hall. You’ve got one senior officer who is intelligent, honest and cares about good policing. He’s Deputy Chief Steve Anderson. A lawyer by training, Anderson could double his salary tomorrow by humping it at one of the downtown law firms. He sticks around because he cares about that department. And he didn’t apply for your job. In fact, Anderson was the only one sufficiently savvy to realize that the department was such a mess that no selection committee was going to put an insider on the short list for chief. Clear your calendar one day soon, call Anderson in and ask him what needs to be done. Take notes.
Have lunch with Charlieat The Pie Wagon. There’s one other fellow in town who can give you solid, strong advice. His name is Charles Smith. A former assistant chief, Smith got fed up with departmental politics and took a cushy job in 2001 as the assistant chief of the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Smith played hardball with the FOP and look where it got him. He’s a smart, tough guyand honest to boot. Smith no longer has a horse in the cop shop race and will shoot straight.
Get out your axe. There’s a lot of dead wood in middle and upper management on the force. Run ’em off. You know how to do it and get around the civil service rules. If you need names, ask Anderson and Smith.
Call Pedro. Our new Metro schools director, Pedro Garcia, came to town with both guns blazing; Garcia’s agenda has been admirable, but his effectiveness has been undermined by his style. Avoid his mistakes. Your challenge, of course, will be to earn the force’s respect in a firm but collegial fashion.
Show enlightened leadership. It’ll be a first for this force. First week on the job, stand up in front of the entire force and tell them that, as of right now, the good ol’ boy network is dead. Over. Kaput. Send a strong signal that the only thing that matters to youand the only way to get promotedis doing quality police work. It’s not who you know. Not who did you a favor. Not who can throw a second job your way. But whether you do your job.
It’s that simple. But it’s going to be very, very hard.
Gosh I hate IE 10! Could Microsoft just once leave bad enough alone?
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