The Politics and Agony of Picking a Top Cop

Chief Chris Magnus, Richmond, Calif. and Candidate for the Tucson Job.
Chief Chris Magnus, Richmond, Calif. and Candidate for the Tucson Job.

On Picking a Top Cop

[From an article yesterday by Tim Stellar in the “Arizona Daily Star.”]


“You can picture  a City Manager in his slippers this weekend, staring out the window, a résumé in each hand…

  • ‘Do I pick the white guy who said “Black lives matter,” or the black guy who didn’t?”
  • ‘Do I pick the innovative small-city chief, or the traditional big-city police leader?’
  • ‘Do I go with the Democrats or the Republicans?’

“In Tucson, a new city manager’s first big decision, selecting a police chief, has turned into a competition between significant local-interest groups. He’s planning to forward his pick to the council for their up-or-down vote on Tuesday…” [And, oh, did I mention the leading male candidate is gay and married?]

  • Read the full article HERE.

Perhaps this will be of help to Tucson’s City Manager Mike Ortega. It’s from my book, How To Rate Your Local Police:


Police Chief Leadership Characteristics

  1. What kind of person is the chief [and how has the candidate demonstrated the following characteristics]?
  • Clear vision.
  • Willingness to challengethe status quo.
  • Take risks, be innovative, and build a coalition of support for change
  • Self confidence.
  • Personal integrity.
  • Respect of community and elected officials.
  • Ability to inspire and motivate.
  1. What tone does the chief set for the agency [the candidate has led]?
  • Coherent crime control strategy.
  • Concrete crime prevention strategy.
  • Defend rights of unpopular groups.
  • Equal delivery of community police services.
  1. [Has] the chief articulate[d] the policies of the agency clearly and understandably [in the agency the candidate has led]?
  • Speaking out and taking a stand.
  • Spokesperson on crimecontrol and public safety.
  • Advisor on personal security.
  • Preserver of due process guarantees.
  • Defender of minority rights.
  • Protector of the weak and injured.
  • Manager of a complex bureaucracy.
  • Guardian of the rule of law.

Policy Characteristics [in the agency the candidate has led] 

  1. Does the police agency have a clear sense of its objectives?
  1. Does the police agency guide, train, and supervise police officers in the restraint of the use of force?
  1. Is the police agency willing to investigate and discipline officers engaging in misconduct?

Organizational Characteristics [of the agency the candidate has led]

  • Do police officers respectindividual rights?
  • Does the police agency address crimeand order problems by using all community resources?
  • Does the police agency cooperate and coordinate with neighboring law enforcement agencies and with other agencies in the criminal justicesystem?
  • Does the police agency communicate well with the public?
  • How does the police agency approach the media?[1]

[1] David C. Couper. How to Rate Your Local Police. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1983.

  • AND WHO DID THE CITY MANAGER PICK?