Article Comment 

A look at the top five Police chief candidates


Devin Golden



A quick Google search uncovers a lot of information about some of the five candidates recommended to the city by the search committee. 


A few even have a checkered past mired in controversy, allegations and lawsuits. 


The top five selections, in alphabetical order, are: Curtis Brame, of North Chicago, Ill.; Nathaniel Clark, of Albany, Ga.; Robert Spinks, of Sequim, Wash.; Sam Lathrop, of Beloit, Wis.; and Selvain McQueen, of Columbus. 


The 21-person police chief committee originally recommended five top candidates and three alternates, but one of the top-five selections withdrew from consideration, and one of the alternates took his place in the top-five group. 


The city will not release the names of the alternate recommendations. 


A total of 82 people, mostly from outside the area, applied for the position, and the trio of Chief Operating Officer David Armstrong, Mayor Robert Smith and Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell dwindled the number to 25 by eliminating unqualified candidates. The committee dwindled the 25 to five. The city required applicants to have at least 10 years of law enforcement experience, including supervisory experience as a division commander, assistant police chief or police chief. 




Robert Spinks 


Spinks worked as Sequim police chief from February 2005 to June 2010. Sequim city officials asked Spinks to resign from the department, according to the Peninsula Daily News. An article in the newspaper dated June 17, 2010 quoted a city official describing Spinks as "bombastic."  


The article reads, "(City Manager Steve Burkett) has said that Spinks is a good chief, but no longer a good match for Sequim's needs." 


Spinks previously served as police chief in Milton-Freewater, Ore. from 1997-2001. According to a Citizen Review Online article dated Jan. 12, 2005, The Eastern Oregonian reported that Spinks was placed on "non-disciplinary administrative leave" when he resigned the chief's job in Milton-Freewater at the end of a "bitter dispute with some members of the city council." 


"The paper reported that he had been accused of pressing his officers to campaign for specific candidates for city council," the article reads. "Then, he resigned in 2001, blasting the council for terminating (then Milton-Freewater City Manager Bill Elliot) as a result of all the fighting in the previous months." 


The article states Elliot became Sequim city manager and hired Spinks as the police chief in 2005. 


Spinks worked as an undersheriff in Benton County in 2001, but the same Citizen Review Online article reported other media outlets regarding past controversies. 


"But according to articles in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, he resigned (as undersheriff) in Sept. 2001 after allegations that he had misused his weapon," the article reads. "The Gazette-Times said he had been accused of pulling his gun and pointing it at a dartboard in a fire station, although the incident was never proven and he denied it took place. At the time he resigned, Spinks said he was quitting because he was having to work 'exceeding long hours' in the sheriff's department there, and said the combination of work, school and family 'didn't work out' for him." 


Spinks has around 30 years of policing experience and 12 years of police chief experience. He previously worked: as a trial court supervisor for the State of Oregon Judicial Department - 19th Judicial District from 2004-2005; and as the director of public safety for Bellevue College in Washington from 2002-2003. Spinks earned a Master of Science degree for Criminal Justice in 2005 from the University of Cincinnati. 




Sam Lathrop 


Lathrop retired as Beloit police chief in July 2009. According to a GazetteXtra article dated July 14, 2009, "concerns about a personal relationship between former Beloit Police Chief Sam Lathrop and a subordinate led to his decision to retire." 


According to the article, "there's no specific anti-fraternization policy at the city." The article states Lathrop was going through "divorce proceedings" when the relationship became public. In the article, Lathrop is cited saying the relationship did not negatively affect public safety in Beloit. 


Lathrop worked in the Beloit Police Department for 31 years, and he served as police chief in Beloit for more than six years. He currently works as a law enforcement professional in the U.S. Army 4/10 Mountain Division, 1-30th Infantry Battalion. He mentors and trains Afghan National Police in Afghanistan. Lathrop earned an Associate Arts Degree in Criminal Justice in 1977 from Chippewa Valley Tech College in Wisconsin. 




Selvain McQueen 


McQueen, former head of the Columbus Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division, has held the role of interim police chief since the City Council fired Joseph St. John from the post in July. 


According to a previous article in The Commercial Dispatch, McQueen filed a number of complaints from 2004-2006 against the city and city officials. 


According to court documents, McQueen, who is black, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity charge in 2004, alleging, "Since Oct. 24, 2003, I have been subjected to different terms and conditions of employment than my white co-workers; I have been assigned demeaning job tasks; I have been denied pay increases; I have been denied job duties which require taking a leadership role; and the mayor refuses to respond to my grievances." 


In 2005, McQueen filed a new EEOC charge "claiming he was denied reimbursement (for a management training course he attended) by Sanders in retaliation for the (first) EEOC charge and because of his race," court documents said. 


On May 18, 2006, McQueen filed a second amended complaint, adding Sanders and Rupp as defendants, alleging defamatory comments were made during an executive session of the City Council in 2004. 


McQueen has more than 23 years of law enforcement experience and he accumulated 116 credit hours toward a Mass Communications degree at Jackson State University. He was Officer of the Year in 1997. 




Curtis Brame 


Brame works as the commander of the Support Services Division the North Chicago Police Department. 


Brame, a lieutenant, filed a complaint against the city of North Chicago, the city's mayor and the police chief earlier this year. The complaint was under the Whistleblower Act, and alleges that the chief "retaliated against him for disclosing information to the mayor concerning what (Brame) believes was criminal activity committed by the chief," reads a legal opinion filed Sept. 6. 


Brame had worked in the North Chicago Police Department since 1985. He worked as deputy chief of police of operations from 2001-2005 and works as commander of the Support Services Division. He has worked in a number of capacities within the department ranging from commander of the Patrol Division to master sergeant in investigations. He earned a degree in Criminal Justice Administrations in 2007 from Columbia College of Missouri. 




Nathaniel Clark 


Clark was an applicant for the Columbus police chief position in 2007 when the council voted to appoint Joseph St. John. Clark was one of four finalists in that hiring process.  


According to a previous Commercial Dispatch story, Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, who is black, made a motion to hire Clark, who is also black, and the motion was seconded by black Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart. However, four white councilmen - Ward 2 Councilman Doug Mackay, Ward 3 Councilman Gene Coleman, Ward 5 Councilman Jay Jordan and Ward 6 Councilman Jerry Kendall - voted against the motion. All four are no longer councilmen in Columbus. 


The same string of motions and voting patterns occurred for current Assistant Police Chief Joe Johnson, and it resulted in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city. 


Clark was since hired by the Albany Police Department in 2008 as the director of the Office of Professional Standards. Clark previously served as a criminal investigator with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office from 2003-2008 and as police chief in Pine Bluff, Ark. from 2000-2002. He worked in the Pine Bluff Police Department for a total of 20 years, with positions ranging from shift commander to Internal Affairs Division commander. Clark earned a degree in criminal justice from the University of Pine Bluff in Arkansas.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment trusno1 commented at 10/19/2011 4:06:00 PM:

This is typical Columbus. The selection committee must have only looked at the resumes before they did a background check. They could have Google these name like everyone else did. From what I am seeing, the five candidates they picked are not qualified. The article says checkered past, this is beyond checkered. The qualifications for the Chief job was changed in order for the Mayor to get who he wanted, McQueen. Everyone knows this and even the officers in the department. The standards for this job was lowered to accommodate McQueen. The Chief position does not require a college degree, it is just preferred. McQueen does not have a degree or a clue. You have got to be kidding me. They took the worst of the 25, so that McQueen would fit right in. You know what, we will get a Chief who has no clue what to do and how to lead. Nathaniel Clark was fired from the Pine Bluff Arkansas Police Department for Inappropriate commments, what does that tell you, just Google it. If these five are the best that they could pick, they should have picked a better committee to choose them. Can you say hand-picked by the Political BS of the Mayor and his cronies.


Article Comment brian commented at 10/19/2011 4:31:00 PM:

I thought these people had been vetted, geez already. Totally unimpressed with the interim Chief also, his reaction to the rash of violence since his selection has been what?


Article Comment applicant commented at 10/19/2011 7:28:00 PM:

After reading these profiles about these remaining five finalists, I would bet the other finalist who pulled out was, or is squeaky clean and pulled out as fate would have it for the city. This is not an impressive bunch at all to choose from. One likes to have relationships with subordinates and think that is ok as a supervisor in a police department, some are habitual government litigants, an Afghanistan warrior trainer, police officers with the EEOC on speed dial, one retired and out of policing, yikes


Article Comment brother r. commented at 10/20/2011 12:09:00 AM:

Look folks, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Columbus is just another hole-in-the-wall town. Do you really think anyone with any type of substance is going to give up their secure employment to come here. I know I wouldn't want to put my life on the line and have to put up with the political zealots Columbus has for a lousy $75,000/ year. Now be grateful for what you have, or get off that pocketbook some more, if you want better qualified personnel.


Article Comment blatch commented at 10/20/2011 5:15:00 AM:

top notch.


Article Comment mr. jordan commented at 10/20/2011 12:49:00 PM:

"A quick Google search uncovers a lot of information about some of the five candidates recommended to the city by the search committee."

Five candidates for what, school board or police chief? I have to go down four paragraphs to find out?


Article Comment thom geiger commented at 10/20/2011 12:55:00 PM:

Selvain McQueen didn't only file EEOC complaints. The inference that that was all he did is misleading and false. He did indeed, as I wrote on another topic, file not only a federal district court lawsuit against city taxpayers, he appealed the summary judgment from that court, in favor of the taxpayers, to the US Court of Appeals;
U.S. District Court
Northern District of Mississippi (Eastern Division)
McQueen v. City of Columbus, Mississippi
Assigned to: W. Allen Pepper
Referred to: Jerry A. Davis
Case in other court:
5th Circuit, 07-60238
Cause: 28:1331 Fed. Question: Employment Discrimination
Date Filed: 10/17/2005
Date Terminated: 02/23/2007
Jury Demand: Plaintiff
Nature of Suit: 442 Civil Rights: Jobs
Jurisdiction: Federal Question


Article Comment groomer4vets commented at 10/20/2011 3:10:00 PM:

My question is what is McQueen doing in Law Enforcement anyhow since he has a "Degree" (Not specified what type of Degree) in Mass Communications. Guess he couldn't make it in TV and Radio.


Article Comment kat commented at 10/20/2011 10:38:00 PM:

Wow.....not a very impressive group to pick from. Looks to me like the problems in Columbus will continue. Surely there are better candidates!!!! This is just embarrassing.


Article Comment eiskalt commented at 10/20/2011 11:14:00 PM:

I say pick anyone EXCEPT McQueen. McQueen is a joke...I vote for the Washington state officer from Sequim. Most Washington state cops are pretty good. :)


Article Comment kat commented at 10/21/2011 8:54:00 AM:

Looks to me like the Washington State is guy is the way to go...."An article in the newspaper dated June 17, 2010 quoted a city official describing Spinks as "bombastic." We all know newspaper articles can't be trusted to tell the ENTIRE truth! And if he has the nerve to have a "bitter dispute with some members of the city council". then he just may be the RIGHT guy for Columbus. WE NEED AFFECTIVE CHANGE!!!!!


Article Comment tech1 commented at 10/21/2011 10:01:00 AM:

If you really want "Effective Change" Then the thing to do is to vote in the next mayoral election. Get rid of the board members who are in place now and get some that will be effective for the City of Columbus. I say the Mayor, Board of Aldermen, and the local media has turned this search into a complete and total circus.


Article Comment steve sills commented at 10/21/2011 11:25:00 AM:

kat comments:

"Bombastic" was being kind.

He is a fraud and an idiot, and has really no substantive law enforcement background. He cozies up to whatever media idolizes him (likes the local weeklies, especially). Hire this guy at your own peril.


Article Comment bravesfan commented at 10/21/2011 12:13:00 PM:

I think the "degree" is an associates. Hence the need to dummy down the requirements from degree required to degree preferred.


Article Comment applicant commented at 10/21/2011 1:42:00 PM:

The Sequim guy is not smart enough to realize how fortunate he is to be a finalists anywhere for a job in this economy after being run off of his last job by his city manager; basically paid to leave He comes across as ungrateful an arrogant. One basic requirement for CPD police chief should also be to knowing when to keep your mouth shut.

"I look for opportunities that might present themselves, whether they are local or far away," Spinks said. But the employment process is a two-way process, too. In my case, I am also evaluating potential employers, too."

The city provided a severance package that guaranteed him $31,044 -- two months' salary plus payment for unused vacation and sick leave -- plus an additional $7,192 if he didn't find another job by Oct.
His severance agreement also has a non-disparagement clause requiring that Spinks and Burkett and his staff refrain from denigrating each other. The must really have wanted him gone.


Article Comment eiskalt commented at 10/22/2011 9:54:00 AM:

Once again, I stick with what I said. ANYONE BUT MCQUEEN.

Seriously, what kind of person is going to pull out the, "You are racists!!" bs? Makes you wonder if McQueen is ONLY where he is because he tried to sue everyone for "Employment Discrimination" so they put him where he is now to get him to shut up. I am sure if he didn't get the job, he will find some "Employment Discrimination" reason he didn't get it and try to file suit again. :/

Columbus is so backwards...


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 10/24/2011 5:59:00 AM:

Correction: Mississippi is so backwards.


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