“No to secrecy” in Pasadena Police Chief selection process

I’m going to reprint the Star-news editorial from this morning here, because it’s an appropriate call for open government in a process that has  so far been a perversion of California open public records law:

WE applaud Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck for convening a second, more inclusive and open police chief selection advisory panel.

Criticized by many in the community, including ourselves, for keeping his initial panel shrouded in secrecy, Beck apparently now sees the real need for openness in city government.

Perhaps the city manager had to scramble a bit to finally understand the reasons such openness is important. And we do strongly wish that the names of those on the original committee had been made public, the same as every other commission and committee in City Hall, before its members met, not after. But Beck can’t unring that bell. It would seem that he has heard the criticism, and responded in an appropriate manner.

One of the most telling things to come out of the after-the-fact naming of those who did serve on the panel was the panel’s clear lack of economic and geographical diversity among its members – a front-loading of insiders and bureaucrats with not even a sprinkling of regular folks.

They are stellar folks, to be sure. And we don’t argue by any means that Pasadena police officers and police chiefs from neighboring communities don’t belong in the mix on any such advisory panel. But fully half of the 16 members of the original group were either chiefs or Pasadena officers.

It should be made clear that Beck – not the City Council, nor some citywide plebiscite – is empowered to choose a police chief.

That fact is now and has in the past been good for the city, removing politics from the choice. Just look at the current shenanigans in South Pasadena to see what council meddling can do to police chief selection. Beck should also be the person who chooses the members of these advisory panels. But, given his agreement to create a new, more diverse panel, it is clear he’s starting to get how important inclusion is to this city.
Speaking of the criticism that was hooted so loudly at his original, once-secret, panel, Beck said this week,

It certainly had an influence on my thinking … people in Pasadena have a strong desire for participation.”

They also have a strong desire for openness, and that’s why Beck should not force the members of this panel to sign confidentiality agreements the way the members of the first panel had to. It’s already known that the choice is down to a list of three finalists from the semi-finalist group of nine. Any candidate who has come that far in the process needs to know her or his current employer is going to find out about the process anyway. That’s not a bad thing – police departments know their best and most ambitious leaders are going to be recruited elsewhere. It’s a feather in any police officer’s cap to be a finalist for chief of Pasadena’s force.

No to secrecy, no to confidentiality, yes to a more open process as the Crown City looks for a new police chief.

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