In July, when Columbus Mayor Keith Gaskin announced a search committee would be formed to identify qualified candidates for city police chief, we admit we were a little skeptical.
This was particularly true when it came to the four citizen members of the 10-person committee.
In the past, citizen members of these kinds of committees have often gone to what might be considered “the usual suspects,” people long on opinions and short of relevant experience. We do not want to seem harsh in this assessment. These citizens are passionate, certainly, and care about their city. But too often, their primary qualification was being the loudest voices in the room.
We saw none of that in the committee announced during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Chief Operating Officer Jammie Garrett announced the roster of search committee members. Six city officials are on the committee — Gaskin, Garrett, human resources director Pat Mitchell and council members Joseph Mickens, Rusty Greene and Stephen Jones.
The four citizen members of the committee are former police chief Pete Bowen, District Attorney Scott Colom, public defender Amanda Meadows and Civil Service Commission member Rita Felton.
Each member has a unique perspective based on experience that is relevant in identifying qualified candidates for police chief.
Bowen’s credentials need little explanation. Having someone who has done the job will be of great value. He’ll offer an insider’s view about the job, something no other member of the committee can provide.
Colom and Meadows bring to the committee experience in the police department’s role in the criminal justice system from the point of view of those charged with prosecuting crimes but citizens who are charged in those crimes. Colom and Meadows, by the nature of their roles, often find themselves on opposite sides of the courtroom. That, too, is an asset to the committee.
Finally, Felton’s presence on the committee could be perceived as a representative of the rank-and-file of the police department since the Civil Service Commission is the place where grievances are filed.
Each of these four committee members offers something important that the other committee members simply don’t have.
The council also used the occasion to tidy up a couple of related issues — developing a job description and criteria for the police chief position and establishing a range of pay based on the salaries of area police chiefs.
A 30-day application period begins today and we look forward with renewed optimism to the work the committee will be doing in the coming weeks.
We believe the makeup of the search committee is a key to the process.
The city got it right.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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