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Our View: Chief search offers new challenges




Tuesday evening the names of the top five candidates for the Columbus Police Chief were announced at the city council meeting. One of the five was interim chief Selvain McQueen. The name of another, Nathaniel Clark of Albany, Ga., may ring a bell with some. Clark was a finalist in the 2007 search that resulted in Joe St. John being named chief. 


The other candidates are from far-flung places -- Beloit Wis., Sequim, Wash.; and North Chicago, Ill. -- and are relatively unknown here. To a degree, that changed overnight. 


Dispatch reporter Devin Golden posted his story about the announcement on the newspaper's website Tuesday evening after the council meeting. By morning the story had 1,200 hits, for our website, a extraordinarily large number in a short time. Even more remarkable, readers had conducted their own background checks on the candidates and bloggers had weighed in with their findings. 


Judging from hometown newspaper reports, most of the candidates have accumulated baggage in their careers. Cursory internet searches reveal that four of the five candidates have been involved in questionable activities, which in three cases resulted in them either being terminated or asked to resign. Columbus interim chief McQueen, filed EEOC charges against the city three times. McQueen's first complaint was settled and the other two cases dropped. 


It remains to be seen if other actions taken were justified. According to court documents filed Sept. 6, Curtis Brame of North Chicago, Ill., charges that his chief and mayor "retaliated against him for disclosing information to the mayor concerning what (Brame) believes was criminal activity committed by the chief."  


That all this information is so readily accessible is one of the benefits of living in the Internet age. Accessibility of information has its pitfalls: The mistakes one makes are there for all to see. The good, however, is less evident. None of us lead blemish-free lives, and if you happen to be a public official and misstep, well, the results are there for all to see for years to come. At this point, we urge restraint in the rush to judgment. More research is needed before we have a clear and balanced picture of these candidates' careers. 


One thing is emphatically clear, at this point: The city and the subcommittee charged with vetting the candidates (headed by Dispatch publisher Birney Imes) have a challenging task before them. 


We wish them every success.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment kj commented at 10/20/2011 1:55:00 PM:

One wonders how much information was discovered (via cursory internet searches or other personal investigation) by the 20-something members of the committee charged with reviewing candidates relative to that discovered by the general public.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 10/21/2011 5:10:00 AM:

Judging by the top five, I'd say not much.

You still have time to make you some popcorn and get a refreshing beverage before the main act begins. I hear there will be dancing involved.


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