The Right Thing To Do
Method of hiring police chief sends uncomfortable message
Being a leader is more than just following the rules. Rules only tell us what we are prohibited from doing, and what we are required to do. Or put another way, just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should.
Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Just because you can eat whatever you want without gaining weight, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can skip that workout, or have just one more drink, or bail out of a commitment, doesn’t mean that you should.
Some say this is the difference between what you may have a right to do, and what is the right thing to do.
So, when Mayor Adrian Perkins recently announced that the interim police chief Wayne Smith would fill the Shreveport police chief position permanently – without Perkins having interviewed anyone else for the position – he certainly had the right to do that, but was it the right thing to do?
Perkins explained to reporters that he “knew” Smith was the right choice for chief and didn’t need to interview anyone else. Fine. Got it.
But why disrespect the other applicants’ time by inviting them to submit their resumes in the first place? Or waste the applicants’ time to prepare and test for the written exam, or waste the valuable time of the Shreveport Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service members who had to review and approve all nine (9) applicants in the first place – if Perkins “knew” Smith was the right choice for chief all along?
You see, this isn’t about Chief Smith’s qualifications or his ability to do the job. In fact, Perkins greatest disservice (and disrespect) was to Chief Smith himself because of the appearance of impropriety or backroom deal where the “fix was in,” instead of a transparent and exhaustive hiring process that should have been more concerned with competitively selecting the best applicant to be chief, rather than merely what Perkins supposedly “knew” all along.
And if you’ve ever applied for a job (and didn’t get it) and the person hired was the employer’s best friend from high school or friend of a friend, then you know how those other police chief applicants must feel today – and more importantly – how it looks to everyone else. Forever and ever, that new hire will always be the one who got hired because of whom they knew, and not what they knew.
More importantly, consider the message it sends to every other prospective employee to fill positions at City Hall: No need to apply, we already “know” who we’re hiring.
Seriously, how can we attract the best and brightest applicants to city government positions if they feel they are most likely wasting their time, or otherwise will just be going through the motions to apply because it’s not “what you know” that’s most valued in Shreveport, it’s “whom you know”?
This isn’t the first time Perkins has chosen between what he had a right to do, and what was the right thing to do.
For example, remember when Perkins thought he had the right to switch the city’s insurance policy over to his campaign manager’s first cousin (even though the city’s internal auditor later concluded it was unlawful)? Or how about when Perkins thought he had the right to double-dip on his mayoral car allowance (even though the city’s internal auditor said it needed to be paid back)?
Sure, there’s example after example, but at the end of the day, even if you had the right to do it, the question is, “Was it the right thing to do?” We should be asking our leaders, “Is what you’re doing restoring trust in city government and in you? Or is it fueling more suspicon of both?” This is important because no one – from the mayor to city council to chief of police – can effectively lead a team that doesn’t trust them – and not just to do what they have the right to do but to do what is right.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.