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Our view: Outside firm needed in chief search




The news that Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen has filed retirement papers with the city means that another police chief search is soon to come. It will be the third search for a chief since 2008. 


McQueen, who has been with the CPD for 26 years, was named chief in December 2011 after a lengthy and much-criticized search process. 


After the city council voted to fire Joseph St. John as CPD Chief in July 2011, the council appointed a 21-member citizen council to screen applicants and to recommend finalists to the city council. 


In the interest of full disclosure, The Dispatch publisher Birney Imes was a member of that committee, along with other media members. While the intentions were good -- a desire to bring in a cross-section of citizens to provide their input -- in retrospect the committee was ill-equipped to play such a key role in the decision.  


When the smoke cleared, the council voted to make McQueen, who had served as interim chief since St. John's termination, the permanent chief. 


Any business owner will tell you that hiring is one of their most important responsibilities. The right person in a position -- especially one as important as chief of police -- can transform an organization. 


At some point in the not-too-distant future (McQueen has not announced when he will retire), the council will presumably begin a search process. 


Based on the experience of the previous search, we strongly recommend that the search be conducted by a professional search firm, one that has experience in hiring law enforcement. 


A professional, dispassionate search firm would look both in-house and abroad for the best candidate. They would specify meaningful and important search criteria and carefully vet the applicants who meet that criteria. 


Ultimately, the decision will rest with the council. Council members should set aside any personal preference for the job until all candidates are thoroughly vetted and carefully considered. Do we have the right person already in the department? Perhaps. But the council owes it to the citizens of Columbus to perform a through search. 


Among the in-house candidates likely to emerge is assistant chief Tony Carleton, who came to the CPD in September after four years as the Tupelo Police Department Chief. There may be other in-house applicants as well. 


The search should not begin and end there. 


The position of police chief is a high profile job and a challenging one. 


A professional choice is imperative. 


And that right choice must be preceded by the right process.



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