The deadline for applications from people desiring to be Durham’s next police chief is less than a month away. After midnight, Feb. 1, the heavy lifting in the plodding process starts.
To get up to speed, I took a close look at City Manager Tom Bonfield’s Christmas-time commentary about the valued role of citizen input into the search.
I also examined the website for Developmental Associates, the city’s search firm.
Merriam-webster.com lists these two definitions of “developmental”: No. 1, “of or relating to the growth or development of someone or something.” No. 2, “designed to help a child grow or learn.”
Developmental. Bad name for a firm specializing, in part, in finding already strong, accomplished adult leaders.
And with due respect, here’s my overall reaction to Bonfield’s written words on public participation: blah, blah, blah. Seen and heard it all before.
And before (at least during most of my time here), we got Teresa Chambers, then Steve Chalmers, then Jose Lopez. Were they bold, inspiring, innovative, effective, and urgently driven police chiefs in a city perennially plagued in some parts by indefatigable violent crime?
Being generous, I’d say Durham got about 20 years of average.
With the city having experienced 40-plus homicides (70 percent involving guns) and nearly 200 shooting-related victims in 2015, we just can’t keep getting this wrong.
Bonfield’s plea for participation included a link to a survey. It appears Developmental developed it, with city oversight I would think.
The city manager said about 800 surveys had been completed. How, by the way, does anyone know respondents have anything to do with Durham? The system also let me submit twice. I probably could have done 800 of them myself
My take on the questionnaire formed at Question 1. It is: wake up and smell the gunpowder, folks.
Q1 asks: “What do you consider the most important public safety issues in Durham? (You can select up to 3).”
The listed answers include “Vandalism,” “Burglaries/Theft (Including Car Break-ins),” and “Access to crime data.”
Here’s what is not on the list. Guns. Homicide. Shootings. Violence committed by men under 25. Potential racial bias in police stops. Parenting, or the lack of it.
I love Durham, but I have told friends, “People shoot each other in the streets a lot here.”
The data is out there. A U.S. Justice Department agency told us last spring. Durham’s comparative gun violence and deaths among African-American males ages 15 to 34 is shockingly high.
I don’t tell friends, “I love Durham, but the vandalism in this place is killing me.”
There is a spot to write in your own response. GUNS, SHOOTINGS, AND HOMICIDE. That’s exactly what I said, in caps.
Developmental shows a healthy list of North Carolina municipal and law enforcement agency clients, so it must have a good reputation. But not indicating crimes that involve blasting bullets into human targets as an important public safety issue here is nonsensical.
A few other items relating to Developmental caught my eye.
On linkedin, Stephen Straus shows he has been company president since 1990. He describes himself on the firm’s site as its founder. Yet a listed senior partner, one-time psychology professor Korrel Kanoy, propounds that she co-founded the firm in 2004. So who did what and when?
Fortunately, two Developmental senior consultants are known names here. Mike Ruffin, former Durham County manager. And Willie Williams, former police chief at NCCU. They know the drill in Durham. Let’s hope they’re involved.
Finally, on the home page of the search firm’s website, there are four images rotating through. The image featuring a smiling man and woman in police uniforms is underlined by, “Ensure the best in public safety – hire and promote only the stars.”
That sounds almost sophomoric. Let’s hope Developmental Associates worries less about stars and more about substance.
If this firm can’t find the kind of police chief we need, or the city doesn’t like the way things are proceeding, then Bonfield, Mayor Bill Bell and the council should seize control and do it all themselves. They don’t have to contract out.
Injury and death by gunfire in Durham is at a flashpoint. It can’t be business as usual anymore.
You can reach Tom Gasparoli at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-219-0042.