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Cape police group wants more say in selection of next chief

Friday, September 28, 2012

In this file photo, Cape Girardeau police work the scene of a victim of a self-inflicted gun shot wound outside Dan's Key and Lock Tuesday afternoon, March 6, 2012. The police association is asking for a greater say in the selection of a new chief.
(Laura Simon)
With the search for the next top cop set to begin in earnest, the Cape Girardeau Police Officers Association doesn't want to be brushed aside -- as it claims to have been in years past -- and this time wants to be allowed to help pick the person members will work for.

The police group wants to have a representative on the selection committee that will make a recommendation to city manager Scott Meyer, the man who will ultimately make the decision, said association president Sgt. Bill Bohnert.

"In the past we've never been able to get in there," Bohnert said. "I think we talk and it falls on deaf ears, but we're hoping this time around the association will get a little say-so."

With the period for accepting applications expired, the city has received 53 applicants looking to take over a department that responds to more than 150 service calls each day. The new chief will replace Carl Kinnison, who resigned in July after three decades with the department, the last seven years as chief.

Assistant city manager Heather Brooks and human resources director Lori Meyer are reviewing the applications, Meyer said, and later he'll select a committee to help with interviews that will possibly be made up of city employees, department heads and perhaps a resident. Meyer did not rule out that a member of the police association would be involved, but he said no determinations have been made about who will be on the committee.

"We're going to be taking input," Meyer said. "What exactly that will look like or from who, we just don't know yet."

If it's done like it has been done in the past, Bohnert said, it will be done with only marginal attempts at getting the association involved. This will be the first chief selected by Meyer, but when Kinnison was picked, an announcement was made and the association had no input, Bohnert said. Before him, the association met the three finalists late in the game, was left alone with them in a room and given a half-hour to "chitchat," Bohnert said.

In that instance, the association recommended an outside candidate from Bellevue, Neb. The city manager at the time went with Steve Strong, who had been with the department for years.

Discussions from a recent meeting suggested the association is pretty evenly split about whether the new chief should come from within the department or from elsewhere. Assistant chief Roger Fields is the only known candidate for the job.

But, from the way Bohnert talked, he feels like it might be time for someone from the outside to take the reins. Chiefs from the inside, he said, tend to be beholden to the city manager and members of the Cape Girardeau City Council.

"They work more for them than they do at taking care of the officers," Bohnert said.

A chief from outside may be more willing, Bohnert said, to stand up to the powers that be to help grow the number of officers that has stagnated since the 1990s, deliver on pay increases and get the department a new building to replace the aging one that depends on trailers to meet its needs.

Bohnert believes the association should be involved in the process from the start, weeding out those with lesser qualifications and do a thorough vetting of the finalists.

The association would like to call officers who have worked with a candidate to get a feel for what he or she is about, he said.

"We really feel like we don't have any say-so at all," Bohnert said.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said the decision was Meyer's alone and refused to weigh in about whether the association should be included.

Meyer wouldn't commit on Thursday to saving a seat at the table for anyone in particular. But he said he realizes it is a key decision to pick the man to ensure that the city's 37,000 residents and a number of visitors are protected.

"These are important, important decisions that we don't take lightly," Meyer said. "I don't take them lightly at all, and I want to make sure we get the right fit as much as anybody. That's the reason the process we have is pretty detailed and will take awhile. I'd rather us wait another month or two and get the right match than to get somebody who doesn't work for us."



Pertinent address:

40 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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How can it be that an unelected city manager, who has no accountability to the tax-paying public, gets to make such an important decision? Shouldn't our elected mayor and city council be involved?

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 9:08 PM

ScaliaFan Cape has a "city manager" form of government. In this method, the city council hires the city manager and he basically hires everyone else. The city manager may be unelected, but he most certainly has accountability to the public, as he answers to the council. The city manager hires the Chief because it is the law.

-- Posted by bigdaddy200 on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 9:21 PM

Was this what the very large group of cgpd were talking about at culvers today?

-- Posted by whom on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 9:34 PM

I thought it was called a "council-manager" form of government?

It seems to me that the City Charter puts far too much power in the hands of the City Manager. Our elected representatives should have more control over the day-to-day operations of the city and its personnel. I would favor an amendment to the charter so that the Council chooses department heads.

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 9:36 PM

The current city management will NEVER include employees in ANY decisions. There is a huge divide which renders the organization disfunctional.

-- Posted by thewonder on Fri, Sep 28, 2012, at 7:38 AM

Do the right thing and hire a professional law enforcement officer to be the next Chief. It's very obvious that the person will need to be a person new to the department. New blood is needed! If not, it will be business as usual!!!

-- Posted by arrestthem on Fri, Sep 28, 2012, at 8:11 AM


-- Posted by insider63785 on Fri, Sep 28, 2012, at 8:22 AM

I see no reason why a representative of the current police officers wouldn't be on the committee. It's pretty common to include actual employees of the department on hiring committees. They don't get to decide, but input from actual employees isn't a bad thing.

-- Posted by gomer on Fri, Sep 28, 2012, at 9:42 AM

Don't believe for one minute that any citizen or city employee will have measurable input as to who the next Police Chief will be.

This offer of input comes from a city that did an "exhaustive nationwide search" for a City Manager and located him (Scott Meyer) living next door to the outgoing Mayor. The next Police Chief will be hired on the measure of how easily he can be controlled or manipulated by the City Manager and City Council.

-- Posted by KDrury61 on Fri, Sep 28, 2012, at 10:20 AM

Well, it's about time! Anyone that has been around the community knows how political the Chief Of Police job is. Ultimately, the "Face" of the PD is the Patrolman on the streets. You know how good of a job the Chief and the Command Staff are doing by how happy and satisfied the patrolman are. Benefit of picking a Chief within the department means that he already knows the inner workings, but that also means the they are also already controlled. An outside candidate means new and fresh ideas. What ever happened to promoting a person based on Merit and not who he drinks coffee with in the morning! Good for the Association, paint the walls and add some new lights and see how morale improves(analogy).

-- Posted by Speak The Truth on Sat, Sep 29, 2012, at 7:25 AM


I agree with what you said, but in addition to that, putting a man in the position of Cheif, from with-in the ranks of the police department, will assure that very little will change and those who are "beholding" to each other will continue to have everything just the way they want. That's the way the department has operated for many, many years. If you doubt that, speak to some of the patrolmen who are out doing the job on the street every day.

-- Posted by arrestthem on Sat, Sep 29, 2012, at 10:55 AM

My first thought was that employees do not contribute in hiring their next boss, but after reading the comments it sounds like the Good Ole Boys Political System is still alive and working in Cape Girardeau. With my brief encounter with Scott Meyer, who came in with his suit and briefcase that he laid on my desk and proceeded to open as a show a authority prior to being appointed City Manager, maybe it would be in Cape's best interests to have a variety of organizations represented during the interviews for the next police chief.

By the way at the time of his visit to me, we both worked for different agencies, and he had no authority or influence on my decision. My job went strictly by the laws, and I was not about to deviate from the law and compromise my job security.

Sometimes when people grow higher in their profession earlier than they should, their egos grow right along with it.

Good Luck and I hope you get the best possible applicant for the position.

-- Posted by Kac on Sat, Sep 29, 2012, at 4:02 PM

Great writing. Again the Missourian is on par with a high school weekly.

-- Posted by Ck1993 on Sat, Sep 29, 2012, at 10:12 PM

You have to be careful of the good ole boy system when you stay in the department. Bohnert is well aware of that.

-- Posted by cartman89 on Sat, Sep 29, 2012, at 10:51 PM

k1993, CHS paper has darn good writing, please don't disparge the Tiger.

-- Posted by whom on Sun, Sep 30, 2012, at 8:19 AM

I stand corrected Scalia, council/manager must be the new and popular term, I am still used to calling it city manager form of government. Same thing, different name. Then again, I still have trouble calling junior high schools middle schools too.

-- Posted by bigdaddy200 on Sun, Sep 30, 2012, at 7:02 PM

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