To the editor:
Soon Atlantans will have a better idea about the kind of leader Mayor Kasim Reed will be. Can he lead? Will he break the chains of the “good ole boy” insider way of doing business that led to the failed results of at least the last two administrations, leaving Atlanta nearly bankrupt and many of the city departments in disarray?
The matter at hand is selection of Atlanta’s new police chief. Mayor Reed announced a well-thought-out, above-board process for selecting the chief. He needs to live by the process he announced and select a chief who was recommended by that process.
This will send a signal that there will finally be a new way of doing business at City Hall.
During the campaign, Reed said he would base the success of his first term on his handling of the crime issues facing the city.
Reed appointed a diverse and competent 12-member committee in February to help him find the next chief. Russell Reynolds, a highly respected professional search firm, volunteered to do a pro bono search to find highly qualified candidates for chief. The committee submitted a list of three candidates to Reed’s transition team. Reed was to choose the new chief from that short list.
But once the names got to Reed’s transition team, it appears politics started to intervene. The team asked the committee to reconvene and add two more names to the list, apparently because former Deputy Chief and now interim Police Chief George Turner’s name was not on the original list.
Turner’s name was not on the short list because the nonpolitical process had found three people who were believed to be more qualified.
This month the mayor announced “his” three finalists, removing one name recommended by the committee and inserting, instead, George Turner!
Insiders believe that former Mayor Andy Young is one of the outside-the-process forces putting pressure on Reed to make Turner the chief. (Turner was Young’s driver when Young was mayor, and they have remained good friends.) Also, insiders believe that transition team leader Lisa Borders wants Turner as chief. There are probably others from previous administrations putting pressure on Reed, too.
A few leaders and their groups have had a stranglehold on the city administration for a long time. This cronyism has created a city that is no longer productively functioning, filling Atlanta government for years with people who are not competent to do the job (and in some instances were corrupt).
Will Reed have the courage and leadership to break away from this cronyism?
In the Police Department, this has led to many disastrous consequences, such as the pension debacle; the overall question of police pay (e.g. no step increases in six of the last eight years); the furloughs; the low morale because of absentee leadership; the “victim” mentality within the ranks of the department because of the policies being forced on them with no real access to the mayor and leaders in City Hall; the high attrition rates; and the growing disconnect between police administrators and rank-and-file police.
These things were happening under Chief Richard Pennington’s leadership. Deputy Chief Turner was part of that administration and must carry some of the blame for the failures of the Pennington administration.
Atlanta desperately needs strong leadership and a fresh perspective in the Police Department. Turner carries the baggage of previous administrations. The Pennington/Turner era needs to end.
What Reed needs to do: Live by the process he announced
Go back to the short list of three candidates for police chief submitted by the search committee, which conducted a national search based on merit.
Appoint one of those people police chief now!
Decisions, like picking a police chief, are never free of politics completely, but the politics can be diminished by adhering to the above-board process Reed originally announced. Reed must show Atlanta citizens he can lead. To do that, he has to overcome one of his major weaknesses coming into the mayoral job — namely, his reliance on the leadership of past administrations. Breaking free of these chains will be good for him and the citizens of Atlanta.
Lynn L. Irwin