Riley might be the fit for Selma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The issue: Selma has a new police chief.

Our position: Mayor James Perkins Jr. should be complimented for implementing some of the police study.

Mayor James Perkins Jr.&8217;s announcement that he had hired a new police chief for Selma also was lost in the hustle and bustle of Super Tuesday.

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Without much fanfare, the mayor called a brief press conference and said he had hired William T. Riley III

of Newport News, Va., to replace acting chief Jimmy Martin. Riley will assume his duties March 4.

The selection comes after months of speculation by many residents of Selma as to what Perkins would do. The mayor hasn&8217;t always followed the advice of outsiders, but tends to keep his own counsel. That&8217;s one of the reasons some people were concerned about the amount of secrecy involved in the selection process.

The big question had been: Would Perkins select someone from the area to lead the police department?

And on Tuesday, the mayor answered with a resounding, &8220;No.&8221;

Putting together a committee of 27 was admirable. A consensus is always wiser than attempting to go it alone. Many residents, including a member or two of the council, would have preferred a more open selection, including an introduction of the finalists to the community. Perkins opted not to take that course.

Despite perceived flaws in the process, the mayor seemingly took great care in selecting Riley. This is a 23-year veteran who has worked the streets, investigations, and who has trained and recruited and disciplined officers. His resume indicates that Riley is as adept at leading the men and women of a police department as he is at policing.

With the advent of a new chief, the residents of Selma and the surrounding policing area should put away their biases and give Riley an opportunity to provide this city with a department that will truly serve and protect.

And, in the same spirit of cooperation, Mayor Perkins should be commended for following the guidelines of the police report by hiring some experienced in administration and training and recruiting and offering an attractive salary. The mayor also selected someone from outside the area, who is expected to bring fresh perspectives to old challenges.

The selection of Riley is seemingly a step toward mending a broken public safety department.