The culture of any organization, council or municipality is defined not by mission statements, rules and declarations but by the actions, consistent behavior and hiring practices of the leadership. This is particularly true in our local police department where an emphasis on traffic control over proactive community policing of real crime has too long been the policy. With the hiring of a new police chief this trend may finally change but only if the community gets involved.
Leadership, having already established a culture and faced with new hiring decisions, will likely look for candidates with similar mindsets or promote from within. There may even be some cost saving benefits to hiring from within the ranks of the organization in the short term but ultimately, in order to affect real change or advancement it is necessary to bring in new blood and fresh thinking.
There are other important issues to consider as well, not the least of which is ‘vicarious liability’. Vicarious liability refers to the responsibility of an employer for the actions of its employees. Vicarious liability states that if during the course of performing employment duties someone is harmed or damaged, physically or monetarily due to the actions of employees an employer along with the employees can be held liable in a court of law.
One of the major components of vicarious liability is ‘negligent retention’ whereby an employer knowingly fails to terminate an employee despite evidence of impropriety, incompetence or criminal behavior. When the employer is a city and negligent retention is proven via civil proceedings then vicarious liability ultimately spreads to every voting citizen, if not civilly at least morally.
Unfortunately, liability insurance carriers can have a disturbing impact on negligent retention within a poorly run organization. For example, the insurance carrier may require as terms of coverage the organization or city never admit fault. Since firing a questionable employee may be viewed as ‘admitting fault’ the questionable employee is often retained. Should a failure to exercise proper oversight and existing poor management practices allow the employee or employees to continue with inappropriate conduct the organization is not only guilty of negligent retention but may be viewed as complicit in those actions by a court of law.
This week begins the hiring process for a new police chief whereby the public is allowed to contribute opinions and view the interviewing of the select hiring committee. Out of 22 police chief applicants five have been handpicked by the city manager to come to Coquille and meet the community.
Two of the five candidates have Bachelor degrees and one is working on a Bachelors degree. The only female applicant is managing a $20M budget and overseeing over 100 employees and Sargeant Pat Smith of the Coquille PD is the fifth candidate. It is vitally important the public participate in the hiring of a new chief to ensure the old habits of the department not perpetuate.

Along the lines of old habits, three city councilor positions are up for reelection as well as city mayor. New blood is needed at all levels of local public administration and I encourage all concerned citizens to consider running for one of these very important volunteer positions.