The next top cop will come from tri candidates Acting Chief Rebeca Garcia, Captain Lonnie Blackwell and retired Captain Roderick Porter.
Mayor Joe Ganim has announced a timeline for a public vetting where the candidates will be sized up for arguably the second most influential position in city government, a transparent action compared to the opaqueness of the last search four years ago when Ganim tapped his long-time friend A.J. Perez who would resign in disgrace two years later for meddling with the testing process that provided him an unfair advantage.
Ganim’s selection was a self-inflicted wound.
This is a chance for the candidates to show their stuff in what could very well be disquieting situational questions during community forums.
Ganim wants someone who can manage the building, but key also is how the chief responds when community heat is turned up. Garcia, who Ganim appointed to replace Perez, has been largely loathe to visible community presence in the face of controversies irrespective of the social media tools available to communicate with the public.
This was evident in the police notification controversies involving two Black women that received national attention particularly the case of Lauren Smith-Fields who a medical examiner determined died of an accidental overdose following a night of drinking and drugging with a Bumble date in her apartment.
What clearly was a case of personal responsibility morphed into a tornado of public torrent, some instigative community groups fanning the flames of demagoguery that placed the police department on public trial. Cops didn’t cause Smith-Fields death yet that’s the way it was portrayed, something sinister had to be at hand. Timely family notification became a pawn in the yarn of race-baiting, community marches and political posturing.
The department was put in a tough spot yet Garcia ghosted community dialogue. This is a chief who feels no obligation to be present when the time is at hand.
Garcia must shine publicly over the next several weeks or Blackwell and Porter flop in the community forums for her to receive a five-year appointment from Ganim. Community interaction should be strength areas for Blackwell and Porter.
The last thing Ganim wants in a reelection year is a phantom chief during a summer spike in crime.
Other factors will be in play. Management skills, deployment, favoritism, morale, budgeting.
If you’re a proponent of advanced degrees Blackwell and Porter check that box.
What’s the politics of this police chief choice?
The last two chiefs have been Hispanic. Blackwell and Porter are Black. Both Blackwell and Porter feel they’ve been marginalized during Garcia’s time at the top. All three have their supporters and detractors inside the building and out.
Look for Ganim to make a selection in mid November.
Meanwhile the candidates prepare for a public examination.