New London police chief public interview is a farce

I see no reason why New London acting police Chief Peter Reichard hasn't been appointed the city's permanent chief.

Even Mayor Michael Passero conceded Reichard's done a great job under trying circumstances. After all, he's been filling those big shoes for all the time the last chief abdicated her responsibilities.

He deserves the appointment, by any measure.

And yet the mayor's chief administrative officer, Steven Fields, has been leading a quixotic search for a new chief that began, oddly enough, with a full-page ad in The Day, as if any qualified candidate within the newspaper's circulation area wouldn't know anyway the job was open.

If the city has money to burn, I am glad, anyway, they are at least spending it on newspaper advertising.

But the craziest is yet to come: A public "community interview" in which the finalists are supposed to take the stage in a city high school auditorium next week and answer questions delivered by a television news reporter.

This is bizarre on many levels, not the least of which is that it spoils the legitimacy of the job search.

Most qualified candidates for jobs like this already have a job, and they don't want their employers to know they are out looking for a new one until they land it.

So many potential qualified candidates who knew the New London chief search was going to end with this crazy public forum, without any guarantee of being hired, would be sure to skip the whole thing and not apply in the first place.

Indeed, evidently one of the three finalists has balked at taking the high school stage. I assume, given the wacky process, that the no-show candidate no longer would be eligible for the job.

The other ridiculous thing about the "community interview" is that none of the candidates will be named ahead of time, giving the members of the public, who are supposed to have input, no ability to ask informed questions.

So it appears at this staged event next week there will be two candidates, one of them probably Reichard, who has no choice but to go along, and whatever other candidate there is who doesn't mind an outcome in which people will know he or she applied for the job and didn't get it.

Of course this elaborate search for a chief makes a mockery of the hiring process in general for virtually the rest of the Passero administration, which made cronyism appointments the order of the day.

Indeed, there was no search for the very important administrative job Fields holds. He just floated from his volunteer job with the Passero campaign right into the big City Hall job for which he had no specific experience, managing a city government.

Waving away the lack of a job search for that job, the mayor put "interim" in front of Fields' title, a qualification that has since been quietly dropped.

That worked for Fields but not so much for Reichard, who very much does have the right experience.

I don't know of a single job search held for any other department head.

This one, for the chief, is not only flawed but may turn out to be nothing more than an unnecessary fig leaf over the fact that the fix for Reichard was in from the start.

Reichard, if chosen as permanent chief, would be the only new department head appointed by the mayor who already has proven himself on the job.

The other fallacy about the "community interview" is that the community isn't really and shouldn't be involved at this level of the process.

That's why voters are supposed to choose accomplished leaders to whom they give responsibility for professionally filling these important positions. It's not a community event.

One thing is for sure. If Reichard is chosen, he will reinforce the mayor's continuing determination to ignore the charter requirement that department heads live in the city.

After all, why not pick and choose what provisions of the charter to obey or ignore, if you can get away with it here in Cronyville.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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