It’s important for us to feel safe in our communities.
A big part of that is knowing we have an effective police force with capable leadership.
Lt. Selvain McQueen has been heading the Columbus Police Department on an interim basis since July.
And, the city of Columbus is actively seeking to fill the position with a permanent chief.
Wednesday, a group of 19 community members met for two hours to vet the applications of 25 who want the job. The group was charged with narrowing the field to a handful.
It’s a critically important decision, especially during a time where the city has seen several shooting incidents, some fatal. The right leader could ease the sense of fear mounting with each incident and restore confidence in the police force.
Some — Councilman Kabir Karriem, among them — advocate promoting from within the department. While the best candidate may already be among us, we sell ourselves short not casting a wide net in our search. The next chief’s capabilities are more important than his current address.
Along with McQueen, Assistant Police Chief Capt. Joe Johnson has applied for the post.
We commend the mayor and Council for recruiting engaged community members to review resumes and for their efforts to keep politics out of the process. A thank you is due to the committee for volunteering their time and talents.
That said, there is an opinion among some that the committee process is for show, that city officials have already made their choice. Surely not. This decision can affect quality of life and residents’ attitudes about their hometown for years to come. To not make every effort to hire the absolute best candidate would be a travesty.
We encourage the city to build on the good will the committee process has engendered. We urge those considering the findings of the committee to be meticulous in their investigations.
Anyone can look good on paper.
Those charged with vetting the candidates should have meaningful conversations with work associates who can give a clear idea how a particular candidate would perform as chief. Coworkers, superiors and even media personnel from their hometowns can paint a more accurate picture of how effective a leader each might be.
As we’ve said here many times, there is no substitute for effective leadership. Our leaders are trying to make a difficult decision, themselves, about leadership. We wish them well. It’s a choice we can’t afford to get wrong.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.