Consultant advice for chief search ahead of search committee presentation

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton steps into retirement Tuesday.  Now, city leaders must figure out what they’re looking for in their next chief.

Mayor Keith Gaskin has not named a search committee yet but he says he is looking for a leader to build morale in the police department. Gaskin wanted a consultant to be involved in the search process. The council turned that idea down. However, we reached out to one ourselves.

“I think that we’ve got to continue to try and bring our police department into the 21st century,” said mayor Keith Gaskin.

Mayor Gaskin said budgeting and salaries need to improve within the police department. A task that is out of the hands of the chief. Setting budgets and salaries is the responsibility of the mayor and city council. When the city’s search committee is formed, Gaskin hopes they will look for a leader who will help build morale within the department.

“We’re looking for a real leader to come forward as the next chief that can bring the officers together,” said Mayor Gaskin. Many times you’ve heard our officers talk about this. It’s been difficult to solve some of the crimes because of people being willing to come forward with information.”

I asked law enforcement consultant Ben Click if the department should look internally or externally for its next chief.

Click is no stranger to law enforcement. He served 29 years as assistant chief in phoenix Arizona before serving 6 years as the Dallas Texas police chief. Now, he lives in Lowndes County and offers professional consulting to law enforcement nationwide.

“Stay internally if you’ve got somebody that’s qualified,” said Click.

“There will obviously be internal candidates that will apply and I think anytime that you do a job search like this that you want to look at the people that you have in place already that have been servicing the community,” said Mayor Gaskin.

During our sit down with Click, he offered his ideas about what the next chief should consider in rebuilding the department. Click placed a focus on economic development.

“I think it’s one area that law enforcement agencies do not pay enough attention to or recognize,” said Click. If people are afraid because they see acts of violence, they listen to the news, they might actually see some things happen, they’re not likely to move there.”

“We’re looking for a real leader to come forward as the next chief that can bring the officers together in a way that we hope will do community policing building confidence within the community,” said Mayor Gaskin.

I also asked Click about setting professional standards in a department that is as understaffed as Columbus’.

“Part of that respect from the community has to do with how they perceive the officers. What is the department’s reputation? I fired 103 officers in six years but it was a department that had over 3 thousand police officers. It sounds like a big number and it is a big number but some of these people I think with the turnover in chiefs, the chiefs never really got a sense of who should be there and who shouldn’t.”

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