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A View From the Battle Ground

City’s top cops are going through the grinder. They are under heavy criticism; some are getting their pink slips. We saw a similar phenomenon when urban school district superintendents were linked to test scores and were given the boot when public school students were underachieving. I dubbed it the “superintendent shuffle.” Police chiefs are scrambling to find jobs where there is less turmoil. The revolving door is spinning.

Back then, school districts were losing superintendents at amazing rates. The average stay was 2-3 years if their luck held out. My home state of Missouri should be in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of supes its two urban districts went through. In St. Louis, we ran through eight superintendents in five years. I am proud to say I helped run off a few of those losers. If we look at a longer arc in Kansas City, 25 supes went through the revolving door in about 40 years. They shuffled to other districts with the same empty promises.

The pressure on police departments for meaningful reforms has grown more intense since the Ferguson Uprising. The demands have not been significantly different over the last 50 years. Stop the occupation. Stop the profiling. Stop the killing.

The demands have not been significantly different over the last 50 years. Stop the occupation. Stop the profiling. Stop the killing.

The anger is now more intense and communities are more organized. Police departments - led by police groups - have been resistant to any change. Fueled by the police murder of George Floyd, the movement is on fire and the “Defund the Police” campaign is in full throttle. Police associations have doubled down on their refusal to change.

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The movement’s pressure for police accountability is having an impact. Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCCA) represents chiefs from 69 of the country’s largest cities. Almost 20 percent of their police chiefs have resigned, retired, or been fired in a year. Recruitment for rank-and-file cops is difficult enough but finding a trusted change-agent to head a police department is damn near impossible.

Baltimore has gone through five commissioners in as many years. Centerville, GA is looking for its fourth chief in five years. Four cities in North Texas, including Dallas, are on the hunt for a top cop. Madison, WI is checking out four candidates to replace its top cop after he abruptly resigned with a one-day notice; three of four candidates were former chiefs or deputy chiefs from other cities. The beat goes on.

Many communities are rightfully demanding input into the hiring of its next police chief. It’s a rocky process because cities aren’t used to sharing the decision-making with the public. It’s usually a hidden process with the mayor making the final decision that citizens are stuck with.

Louisville officials are keeping their list of finalists a secret, allegedly to protect the identity of the candidates. Are they Nazis or what? Mind you, this is the place where Breonna Taylor was murdered by Louisville cops and ignited a summer of protests.

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There should be super transparency in the selection of the next chief if that city expects to address legitimate issues of community mistrust of the police.

Jamala Rogers
The Black Commentator