Policy Blog – Chief of Police Vote

/ August 4, 2020

I know many of you are wondering why the votes for chief came down the way they did, and I want to take a moment to lay out my rationale.

I understand many of you are concerned and upset by the selection process; I am as well. I didn’t have the opportunity to vote for Jones, Dudley, or Moore; I only had the opportunity to vote on the City Manager’s pick, Vanessa Wilson. The process for this selection is laid out in our city charter and council is only brought in at the very end.

If a majority of council had voted against the City Manager’s pick, this would have triggered another search. From my perspective a protracted search lends credibility to the idea that we just need a new chief to cure what ails us. I do not believe that is possible. The same way that we can’t expect one officer to be a mental health counselor, animal services expert, marriage counselor, social worker, etc., we can’t expect one chief to be able to repair a centuries old institution.

We’ve seen this same song and dance play out across the country for decades and yet here we are. My view is that we are dealing with a systemic problem and a culture built up within it and around it that perpetuates an “us vs. them” narrative, where some members of general public (disproportionately people of color) are viewed as a dangerous “them”. Any meaningful attempts to change the system have been met with fearmongering, threats of political retribution and/or physical violence, and more. No individual is going to be able to change that.

To paraphrase the comments of several of my colleagues, the confirmation of City Manager Twombly’s choice is not the end of the journey; it’s the beginning of another part of the long road ahead of us. At the end of the night, I felt I made the best choice given the hand we were dealt, both for short-term harm prevention and with regards to cooperation for the institutional change that the moment demands.

Whether the City Manager chose Wilson, Moore, Jones, or Dudley, the Gilliams would still been laid out on the hot asphalt. Elijah McClain would still have been murdered. The institution would still be broken. I would still believe that we must demilitarize our police force and reallocate resources away from the status quo and put them towards addressing inequities and injustices in our community.

We are going to pay for public safety proactively or reactively; I remain committed to being proactive.

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