Policing without politics

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Selma Police Department remains under fire. One consensus criticizes the department because of their perception of Chief Jimmy Martin and what they say is an inability to lead, the condition of the facility and the role the mayor plays in the police department, including his appointment power. Another consensus says the reason the department is in disarray is because of the members of the city council appointed-public safety commission and the continued involvement they play in pointing out flaws.

Depending on who you talk to, there are scapegoats. The sad part of this equation is that rather than dealing with putting criminals behind bars, the emphasis – or at least perceived emphasis – is on the politics.

One anonymous officer of the SPD said it best

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politics has no role in policing.

Until the politics is removed from the SPD, there will continue to be a dark cloud hanging over the Cecil C. Jackson Jr. Public Safety Building. That cloud will also continue to hover over the people who are charged with protecting and serving the residents of Selma.

How can we expect our officers to focus on keeping our city safe if they have to worry about the condition of the building they work in or whether or not they will need to look for employment elsewhere based on management?

In turn, how can we expect our chief of police to lead a department of 59 officers with all the criticism he faces daily?

The answer at this point may not be to remove all political action from the department instantly. One would think the answers would derive from those elected officials who have been charged with running our government, which includes the police department. Unfortunately, the department didn’t fall into this situation overnight and as a result is not going to get fixed overnight. Whatever solution is found needs to be done swiftly. It seems based on the morale and the continued criticism of the SPD something has to change. Whether it is the resignation of the police chief or taking away appointment powers from the mayor or changing the members of the public safety commission – something needs to change. Officers of the SPD continue to put their lives in harm’s way daily. They deserve to have the support of our elected politicians and more importantly sound leadership and an above par working environment.