The search for the next chief of the Tucson Police Department has been embarrassingly botched – a situation that will unfairly cast a national pall over a highly respected department.
Middle school student council elections are more professionally handled than this debacle has been.
The city of Tucson spent months and an undisclosed amount of money – likely tens of thousands of dollars – in a national hunt for the city’s next police chief. How much was spent? The city says it doesn’t know – which doesn’t speak well of accounting procedures.
Then – after candidates had been flown to and lodged in Tucson, after extensive and costly background checks, after meetings with several community groups, after hours and hours of interviews and after the field had been narrowed to four finalists – the search was canceled.
City Manager Mike Hein, who is charged with selecting a chief, said only that a chief would not be selected from that list of finalists, which included two from within TPD and two from outside Tucson. Instead, a new search will be started including only candidates within TPD.
Hein issued a statement saying TPD employees “have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and have made the Tucson Police Department the best police department in the country.”
But that sterling reputation was known before the city launched a national search for the next chief. If Hein and the council thought so highly of TPD and wanted a chief from within the department, why go through the expense and the effort of a national search – and then call it all off when the end was within sight?
The candidates who applied from outside Tucson thought highly enough of TPD to risk endangering their careers elsewhere. Now they’ve been told – with very few specifics – to go back to their lives, it all was a big mistake and Tucson no longer is interested in anyone from outside of TPD.
Memories are long. The next time Tucson needs a chief and decides to conduct a national search, tales of this adventure will be resurrected.
Concerns also were raised that required qualifications varied on different Web sites.
That may not have been a major factor in canceling the search. But it adds to the perception that the city didn’t have a firm idea what it was looking for in a chief – one of the most high-profile positions in local government.
Kermit Miller has been acting police chief for nine months since Richard Miranda retired. Miller has done an admirable job in his temporary position, but is due to retire in May.
It is incumbent that Hein move deliberately to fill the job before Miller retires. TPD needs a new chief, not another acting chief.
There are qualified local candidates. It’s unfortunate Hein and the council didn’t recognize that before now.