Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Monday, January 30, 2006

City Should Retrieve Criterion for Chief

On September 22, 2003, The Spokesman-Review's editorial board published an "Our View" column headlined "City should toss criterion for chief". The column summarized how then-Police Chief Roger Bragdon had reneged on a public promise to complete work on his four-year college degree in return for being appointed full time Chief of Police in Spokane. The newspaper's editorial board endorsed tossing the four-year degree requirement for Spokane's police chief.

Fast forward to the article headlined Alarming police statistic wrong on page A1 of the Saturday, January 28, 2006, The Spokesman-Review. The secondary headline read "Chief last fall cited 29 unanswered emergency calls in arguing to stave off more cuts – but real number is 4." In the fall of 2005, Police Chief Roger Bragdon used the inaccurate "29 unanswered emergency calls" to persuade November voters an increase in their property taxes would help avoid police department cuts. As bad as that is, it is even worse that the error was not detected until early January 2006 and only then because a curious Deputy Chief finally checked the basis for the figure.

A competent public administrator puts policies and practices in place so that abnormal operational conditions (such as 29 reportedly unanswered emergency calls in an unusually brief period) are recognized and resolved quickly. Upon first hearing such an outlandish figure, Bragdon should have immediately summoned subordinates (starting with the Deputy Chiefs in charge of the two patrol divisions) to his office and insisted they explain what had happened, how and why it happened, and what they had done to correct it. Had he done that, he would have learned the figure was wrong and presumably would not have used it.

In its September 22, 2003, column The Spokesman-Review editorial board characterized Bragdon as "...a high-caliber cop. A magnum (sic) cum laude in law enforcement."

That may be true, but it's also irrelevant. Being a high-caliber cop by mid-20th century standards is not the same as being an educationally prepared public administrator competent to oversee the development and welfare of dozens or hundreds of employees and to execute multimillion dollar financial plans.

This isn't only my opinion. It is also the position of The International Association of Chiefs of Police as articulated in its Police Leadership in the 21st Century - Achieving & Sustaining Executive Success - Recommendations From The President's First Leadership Conference released in May 1999. Regarding the education needed to be a Chief of Police, the participants in the Leadership Conference recommended this:

"Chief executives must bring a strong foundation of education to the job. Survey contributors overwhelmingly recommend a minimum of a bachelor's degree to lead an agency of under 100 employees. A third of the contributors believe a master's degree constitutes proper and adequate education preparation to lead an agency of 100-500 employees. A distinct majority, 74%, believe a master's degree constitutes proper and adequate preparation to lead the largest agencies in the country."

Spokane will soon choose a permanent replacement for Roger Bragdon. Hopefully the city government will set much higher standards in knowledge, skills, abilities, and education for recruiting and selecting Bragdon's replacement. Law enforcement administration has changed even more dramatically since the attacks on September 11, 2001. The public has higher and broader expectations for law enforcement administrators. They are expected to be highly qualified and skilled public administrators, not just formerly good cops. They are expected to be thoughtful, innovative, and imaginative. No longer will the public accept as their law enforcement agency's chief executive officer undereducated men and women who are politically connected but professionally inept and unprepared to deal with all the social, economic, managerial, and leadership challenges inherent in law enforcement administration in the 21st century.


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