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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Hurry up picking new Pine Bluff police chief

by The Pine Bluff Commercial | January 22, 2022 at 2:30 a.m.

An old survey party chief had a saying when he wanted the team to hustle it up: "Hurry every chance you get."

Even if it is part Yogi Berra-ism, the urginess of the saying is apropos to the city's need for a full-time police chief. Nothing against the interim chief, Lloyd Franklin Sr., but as his title states, he's not here for anything other than the short haul and his term is stretching beyond that.

Council Member Ivan Whitfield sponsored a resolution last week, asking his fellow council members to sign on to his idea that Mayor Shirley Washington should get going again on looking for a chief. He got a total of four votes, leaving the measure unpassed with four votes against it.

Even if the proposed resolution was edging over into the mayor's business -- she has the job of hiring and firing chiefs -- the overall thought to get this process restarted is a good one.

Back in June, a guy from Georgia came to town to be interviewed for the chief's job. He was a hit, and the mayor offered him the job. But he declined because the job didn't pay as much as he wanted it to. We fault him for wasting the city's time, considering he knew what the job paid early in the process.

Council Member Bruce Lockett, who supported Whitfield's resolution, said the city shouldn't beat up on itself too much based on the actions of one person, pointing out that the salary for a police chief wasn't in question until that applicant asked for almost 30% more than the position paid.

"The man knew what the salary paid. We knew what it paid when we advertised for the position of the police chief," Lockett said at the council meeting. "I can't see how one candidate can make us feel like we were underpaying our police chief so poorly that we had to go through a self-analyzation."

The next month, in July, the mayor hired Franklin, who has loads of experience in law enforcement, as the interim, saying she would wait until January to start the search because, surely by then, the budget would have been approved and would include a higher pay for the top cop.

So now it's getting on to late January, and the budget hasn't been approved and no one is advertising for a police chief. And while all of that may fall into place quickly, it hasn't yet, and we get Whitfield's sense of urgency. Once the pay question gets settled, then there's the search and due diligence and the interviews and a visit or two and more interviews, and suddenly it could be getting close to June since the city was snubbed by the only person deemed fit for the job.

So, yes, we suggest a quickening of the pace. If necessary, the council should approve the pay for that one position, and let the mayor get started on looking for someone. It really shouldn't take the better part of a year to hire a chief, and certainly not in Pine Bluff, where crime is our middle name.

Print Headline: Hurry up picking new PB police chief


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