Remove Martin now

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 23, 2007

Conduct proper search for chief

Last week Jimmy Martin, Selma’s top law enforcement official, resigned from the slot he’s held for two years after being appointed to the post by Mayor James Perkins Jr. Martin, citing the reasons for his resignation as a need for peace in his life, and more time for his church and family, has been under fire recently about the actions of some of his patrolmen, including a recent incident where officers allegedly beat an elderly man who was attempting to speak to them on behalf of his grandson.

It also comes at a time where an independent firm is studying the department and will give recommendations soon as to how to improve law enforcement through the Selma Police Department.

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Perkins has announced Martin will stay on until a replacement is found, but we feel that is not in the best interest of the Selma Police Department and the citizens of this city. Asking Martin to stay in a position that he has decided to leave puts him in a &8220;lame duck&8221; situation possibly making a bad morale problem worse.

Numerous officers, including several veteran officers, have complained that the department is not able to fulfill its obligations to the citizenry due to inadequate equipment, manpower and leadership. We expect that situation will continue to fester until Martin is removed and someone is named to lead the police force until a new police chief can be named.

Martin remaining as chief also does not allow the department or the community a timeframe for his departure as it make take several months for a well qualified police chief with extensive management experience to be recruited.

Perkins said that an executive search will take place and that’s a good thing, but an independent group should be used to conduct the search so that politics do not play a role. And while the mayor has appointment power to make the hire on his own, he would be wise to fully involve the city council in the decision-making process.

In addition, the mayor and city council need to re-evaluate the current compensation of the position and be sure the pay fits the responsibility. Numerous other municipalities with populations much smaller than Selma’s pay their chiefs exceedingly more than the $50,000 annual salary the Selma chief earns.

The old adage that &8220;you get what you pay for&8221; is indeed true and the mayor and council need to find the most qualified candidate, pay them according to the level of responsibility required, then hold them fully accountable for getting the results we all want, which is a strong, motivated and unified police force that has the tools necessary to keep the citizenry safe (sometimes from the officers themselves) and the criminals off our streets.

We remind the mayor that this hire is an extremely important one for the citizens of Selma and one that cannot have any political strings attached.

To make a decision on the next chief of police based on anything other than what is best for all the people of Selma would be an injustice.