Today the Sweetwater Police Patrol Association called on the Sweetwater City Council to take a stronger role in the search for a replacement of longtime Police Chief Jim Kelley.
“This city is about to choose the first new police chief in 28 years,” said Charley Wilkison, Director of Public Affairs at the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT. “It’s a big step and the local association has asked to be a part of the selection process but have been told ‘no’ by the City Manager.”
“There’s a large sense of being disregarded in some areas from city hall. And why that is, we have no idea,” said Sweetwater Police Det. Lance Richburg, who is currently the Vice President of the Sweetwater Police Patrol Association. “We want what’s best for the citizens of Sweetwater. We know this department needs to improve in areas, it needs to grow in areas and evolve. And that alone, we feel, is a reason for us to be involved in this process,” Richburg said.
“These officers have been fortunate to have a good police chief here and they are looking forward to seeing where the next administration will take the city as for his or her philosophy toward policing,” Wilkison said.
The Association made the request to be a part of the initial information gathering and preliminary process of the police chief search committee, but were told ‘no’ by Sweetwater City Manager Edward Brown.
“Of course we understand that their role would be very limited,” said Richard Carter, CLEAT Senior Staff Attorney. “We know we don’t have a vote as to the final decision, but in other cities, the police officers are allowed to participate in helping establish guidelines, professional standards, and views regarding policing.”
“Today we are asking the elected officials to step in and instruct the city manager to consult with the brave men and women of the Sweetwater Police Department and allow their voices to be heard on this issue,” said Wilkison.
“These are the people who literally lay down their lives to protect this town,” he said.
“The city manager obviously wants to make this a one man show. He is using the good old boy system to choose who he wants to hire,” said Wilkison.
“The citizens, the taxpayers, and the voters need transparency in this process. They trust their hometown heroes not bureaucrats and town bosses,” said Wilkison.
“Who in their right mind wouldn’t want input from the hardworking, highly trained, professional peace officers before choosing the next leader of the police department,” Wilkison said.
The SPPA is the only association in Sweetwater and CLEAT is the largest law enforcement organization in Texas, representing more than 18,000 rank and file law enforcement officers statewide.
Brown responded by saying, “The city of Sweetwater is a civil service city. Civil service law states that the city manager hires the police chief and the city commission ratifies the police chief. And that’s our position,” Brown stated.
He went on to say that the city is using the Police Chiefs Association to help them score and rank applications for the position. He said that the city is hoping to find a police chief to establish respect between the administration and police department, as well as with other agencies. “That’s the person we’re looking for.”
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