Friday, July 16, 2010

New Police Chief for North Bay Village

A key item on the Commission Agenda was a resolution "confirming the appointment of Robert J. Daniels as Chief of Police". It passed 3 - 2.

Quick summary of the arguments for and against.

Supporting the resolution, Commissioners Trujillo, Kane and Vogel argued and prevailed that the NBV PD needs strong, professional leadership to resolve the existing problems and to negotiate the difficult times ahead with the budget.

Against the resolution, Commissioner Rodriguez and Mayor Alfonso argued that until we are clear on the current financial status of the city, no further hires should be made.

Citizens who spoke fell into the same general categories.

My view is that is no one should be hired until we know the financial status of the city.

Fane Lozman made an interesting point during the public comment section that he supported the hiring of a new police chief, but reminded the commission that the police take up a disproportionate share of our budget and suggested that the new chief's contract include specific performance goals and indicators. Not a bad idea.

The resolution passed and the interim City Manager has begun discussing and structuring the contract with Daniels.

If the contract is finalized, Daniels is faced with a slew of problems.

Budget

Property tax collections are going to fall somewhere between $500 thousand and $1 million, depending on whether the commission raises millage rates or not. A detailed plan by the city to cut police officers, furlough the remaining police officers 26 days per year, go to 12 hour shifts, change the take home car policy, and reduce insurance payments for family coverage, can't be implemented without the union contracts signed. They are still not signed and without union cooperation, these won't happen.

Daniels resume reads like a budget wonk's dream. He has extensive academic and practical financial background and I'm sure he is aware how difficult this task will be.

Human Resources Issues

The disputes in our police department are obvious. Some of them are union disputes, others are personality issues, and even others are differing views on the role of the department. They have reached fever pitch, with physical altercations, accusations of tainted internal investigations and complaints about officers harassing citizens. The truth is always difficult to get at but that's the challenge that the new chief faces.

My view The NBV PD needs a top to bottom HR action plan. Clear policies with consequences about acceptable behavior need to be put in place immediately and consistently enforced, including restrictions of active politicking while on duty.

I have consistently proposed and supported a Citizen's Advisory Commission to work with the police chief to ensure that police policy meet the community goals. (Note: not a Civilian Review Board. That's a discredited good idea that quickly fell into bad company.)

This is urgent.

Politics

Our last police chief, Roland Pandolfi, resigned amicably. That the resignation was with regret, I have no doubt, but he told me and the public at large that it was clear to him for personal and professional reasons that it was time to move on.

Yet Commissioner Trujillo continues to trash talk Pandolfi from the dais, stating with false sympathy that Roland Pandolfi was cowered into resigning by former city manager Schwartz. Chief Pandolfi is a stand up guy and if he was forced into the resignation, I have no doubt he would have told everybody where to stick it. Well, he would have been more polite than I am, but the message would be the same. But former Vice Mayor Rey Trujillo continues to lower his reputation by painting him as weak and without backbone.

This is going to be a problem for whoever is chief. The past predicts the future and when the political situation changes, the new chief will be up against an inconstant group of politicos with a public platform and a fungible sense of the truth.

Final note: I mentioned during public comment that I admire the academic and professional qualifications and I do. The Masters in Public Administration degree alone and when combined with the host of well respected professional organizations and his post graduate training, this speaks well of Daniels' grasp of the complexities of running even a small department. If the contract is finalized, I hope he quickly and consistently begins to execute.

Kevin Vericker
July 16, 2010

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