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Los Angeles County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

There Should Be Public Participation in the Selection of our New Chief of Police

By Patrick "Kit" Bobko

Candidate for City Council; City of Hermosa Beach

This information is provided by the candidate
I think it is important that the public play a role in this decision because our new Chief is taking a position that is chock-full of challenges and opportunities, and the quality of his or her leadership will have a direct impact on all of us.

Does that sound like an overstatement? Well, consider the facts:

The new Chief will have to lead a Department that has been the subject of numerous (expensive) lawsuits for the City, including one we recently settled with a former club owner for $1.1 million dollars. At least two other suits have been filed by individuals with similar claims against the Department and City, and the damages in those suits could be sizeable. And every dollar we spend to settle a lawsuit (or use to pay attorneys' fees!) is one less dollar we have to spend on other things like our parks, streets, and schools. By consuming the City's resources, these lawsuits affect each and every one of us.

Added to the lawsuits, the new Chief will assume leadership of a Department that is currently subject to an FBI investigation. The results (and focus) of that investigation have not yet been disclosed. The person we choose for this position will also have to lead a Department that is faced with policing Pier Plaza. This is no small task, and re-gaining control of the Plaza will require someone who can bring creative, community-focused solutions to the problems. The nature of these solutions will bear directly on the businesses at the Plaza, as well as upon the quality of life for all the Hermosans who live nearby.

Sounds like quite a job, doesn't it?

The Municipal Code expressly empowers the City Manager to hire the Chief, and I know that Mr. Burrell is absolutely up to the task. But I also believe the decision involves issues that are wide-ranging and important enough to warrant public participation in the process.

So my suggestion is this: once the field of candidates has been narrowed down to the finalists, the City Manager should conduct a public forum whereby residents can meet the candidates, hear about their qualifications and experience, and ask them questions. Ultimately, the City Manager will make the final call, but opening the final stages of the hiring process to the public will insure that he has different views and perspectives to draw upon when making his decision. Other cities have held similar public forums when hiring high-profile Officials, and from everything I gather, it's helpful to building consensus around the City Manager's decision. I think we should do the same.

Patrick "Kit" Bobko

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