City opens police and fire chief positions to outside candidates

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Civil Service Commission has revised job specifications to allow for candidates from outside the city to apply for the positions of police and fire chief. That’s a major change in the long-standing practice of promoting from within the ranks of the respective departments.

Jason Pappas, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police said the change is unnecessary and troublesome. “To bring somebody in from the outside is going to create a tremendous learning curve, but more than that it’s a devastating message that you’re sending to your staff saying you are all qualified to be where you are but none of you are good enough to lead this division.”

Neither Fire Chief Kevin O’Connor nor Police Chief Kim Jacobs have announced any plans to retire.

The Civil Service Commission says the change was made as part of a routine review and was based, in part, on a survey of peer cities.

The following is from a Dec. 1 memo prepared by Civil Service Commission staff:

The results of a past study conducted by Commission staff support this change. In the study, conducted prior to the 2012 specification review, Commission staff surveyed twelve cities with uniformed staff sizes comparable to Columbus to understand how appointments into the police chief position are handled. All cities surveyed met CALEA (accreditation for police agencies) standards and it was found that all but one allows appointments to police chief from outside the ranks of their city. Thus, it is recommended that the revisions be approved to allow for candidates from outside the City of Columbus, who have comparable experience elsewhere to be considered for the position.

Eligible internal candidates include deputy chiefs and commanders but historically it has been a deputy chief that gets promoted to chief. Currently there are six deputy chiefs – all of them white males.

Tammy Alsaada of the People’s Justice Project and a leader in the black community says she welcomes the change. Alsaada says it’s not about having a black police chief – it’s about having leaders who understand community policing and who are willing to have a real give and take dialogue with the black community. “Imagine a new chief of police coming in from a city that has implemented these solutions knowing what it looks like to re-establish a relationship,” Alsaada said. “Imagine how transformative that could be.”

Pappas says the union will likely file a complaint about the changes.

“We have negotiated within our contractual agreement a provision that says all of our promotions come from within the Division of Police and we are going to stand fast on that,” Pappas said.

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