The New London Police Department needs a chief and deputy chief. The recent decision by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio to place Chief Margaret Ackley on medical leave has left Deputy Chief Peter Reichard alone in charge as acting chief.
In fact acting-Chief Reichard has been a near solo act for about four months. Chief Ackley suffered a head injury when struck by a windblown window pane during Superstorm Sandy last October. Since then, for medical reasons, she has only saw fit to work a couple of hours a day. The Finizio administration should have moved quicker in placing the chief on full medical leave and moving the process, and the cost, into the workers' compensation system.
We wish Chief Ackley a speedy recovery. Her return would obviously address the problem. But given the apparent prolonged medical issues tied to her head blow, there seems to be great uncertainty as to when the chief might return, if she returns.
The chief and acting chief are the only non-union members of the NLPD. When operating with just a chief, or in this case acting chief, any absence by the chief for a vacation or illness means union members are running the department top to bottom. The potential conflicts are obvious. It is not a healthy management situation.
Also at issue is the fact the deputy chief is primarily responsible for overseeing the investigation of allegations of misconduct lodged by citizens against police officers. Having that responsibility, plus the normal job of running the department, is too much. Managing overtime, handling personnel matters, and setting priorities require a chief who is fully engaged.
The challenge for Mayor Finizio is trying to figure out a means to get the police administration back up to strength while protecting the labor rights of the injured chief. Chief Ackley almost left under a severance deal at the beginning of the mayor's term of office; perhaps it is time to revisit that possibility.
The sooner the department can get back to operating with a full-time chief and deputy chief, the better.