Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Globe police chief editorial off the mark

The editorial in today's Joplin Globe suggesting that the city of Joplin begin its search for a new police chief since Chief Kevin Lindsey has applied for similar positions in Grand Island, Neb., Springdale, Ark., and who knows where else would, at first glance, seem to be the proper approach, but it is not.
As a reader mentioned in the comment section on the Globe website, it is far more important to find out just why Lindsey is so anxious to leave the city, to the point of applying for a Springdale job that would pay less than what he receives in Joplin.
I have noted that Lindsey, who has been ripped locally for not revealing the discipline that was used on two police officers involved in the interrogation and handcuffing of an 11-year-old boy at an elementary school, handled that situation differently than he handled similar situations at his last post in Madison, Wisconsin. The problem appears to be that Lindsey is an aboveboard, honest guy who is not being allowed to run his police department the way he sees fit due to interference from City Manager Mark Rohr.
As expected, some Joplin residents are ticked off that Lindsey is seeking other employment, and the Globe editorialized that the city should begin its search for a replacement for Lindsey. I will agree that the city should have the machinery in place to begin such a search, when and if, Lindsey leaves, but to do it now would be premature.
Lindsey is still the chief and to have members of his force jockeying to be his replacement would be a bit unseemly. It would also take away from any authority he does have and would have the effect of immediately turning him into a lame duck leader, though some will counter that he already is.
Such an approach would be disastrous down the road. You will not attract people with any ambition since they can see how someone is treated who is looking to improve his position...or you will encourage people to lie about their intentions and leave the city at a loss when they do leave.
When I was at The Carthage Press, our approach was never to hire reporters who would guarantee they would stay in Carthage. That approach would have limited the pool of applicants. We wanted reporters who would see The Press as a place where people go who wanted to learn the profession and move on to bigger markets. In that way, we would have the chance of attracting some top talent. If those people ended up liking Carthage and wanting to stay a while, so much the better.
That approach brought The Press such talented reporters as Cait Purinton, John Hacker, Amy Lamb, Brian Webster, and Rick Rogers, who have gone on to success at other publications. It also brought Ron Graber, a young photographer from Freeman, S. D., who liked the area so much he stayed, worked his way up to managing editor and has been in Carthage for just over 13 years.
So it is important for Joplin to establish itself as a place where talented administrators come for either a productive stop or a long stay. One of the readers who commented on the Globe article said the next police chief should be hired from within.
I will agree with that reader to a point. The hire should be made from within if that person is the best person for the job. If not, city officials should continue their approach of seeking the best person for the job. In that way, if you use good judgment in the person you hire, you either will get a person who can do a solid job for a few years and then move on to better things, leaving Joplin with a reputation as a steppingstone for talented people (and there's nothing wrong with that) or you might hit the jackpot and find someone who loves the city and the area so much, he or she will decide to stay for years.

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