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Editorial: The Brake Is the One on the Left, Mr. Mayor…

Some think Mayor Domenic Sarno has already made up his mind and a decision imminent (WMassP&I)

Some think Mayor Domenic Sarno’s decision is imminent (WMassP&I)

The speed at which the city has careened toward succession in the Police Department has raised the alarm among many in the community, especially as many have sought to alter the setup of Police Management in the city of Springfield.

Mayor Domenic Sarno has announced plans to replaced retiring Police Commissioner William Fitchet with one of the three deputy chiefs, John Barbieri, William Cochrane and Robert McFarlin.  An increasing number of sources believe that McFarlin will be the next Commissioner, an outcome that many apparently oppose.

We do not pass judgment on either McFarlin or those community fears.  Neither are the basis of our complaint. Yet, the private, limited selection process Mayor Sarno has proposed and begun to execute is simply no way to run a railroad.

Crime, and in particular, the perception of it is a critical issue for Springfield.  Between neighborhoods actually ravaged by criminal activity and media impressions driven by a zeal to pull what you would assume are jaded eyes to breathless bulletins, the public safety and security of the city and its residents is paramount.

If the reason for light speed has anything to do with the Council’s push to reorganize Police leadership, then take heart.  They cannot override a veto yet and even if they could, it may well take as long as a selection process undertaken at a more relaxed pace.  That the issue should come up at all should be a surprise to no one and the mayor could have been an active part of the debate.  Instead, the mayor’s contribution has been a rushed and sudden contribution to the debate in the form of City Solicitor Ed Pikula’s suggestion that the mayor’s executive order be codified.

For much of our time as part of the political discourse in Springfield we have often disagreed with the mayor, but until now we have never seen anything that shows both apparent disregard for the city’s interest and contempt for a clear public demand for changes.  It is not in the city’s interests to select a Police Commissioner immediately.  A smooth transition can happen just as easily if the city’s next commissioner is appointed 30 days before Fitchet’s departure as 120 days.

And seriously, with the applicant pool limited to deputy chiefs, it is not like these three men know nothing about the Springfield Police Department.

The mayor does not need to agree that a police commission be reestablished.  It is his prerogative to support or oppose it, although we note there has been little credible reason why it is bad and the status quo is so much better.  And we have taken no position on it or the status quo, but we do believe that this process is moving too fast and the only discernable motive seems to be castrating the debate before it can be fully aired and then voted on.

Just as disconcerting is the utter lack of public observation of the selection process.  What interest is served by not allowing the public to offer feedback?  The state’s privacy laws regarding civil servants do not mandate a blackout for selection of high profile posts.  No one is demanding you make public Barbieri, Cochrane and McFarlin’s exam scores from the mid-1990s or how many sick days they took and why.  The public merely wants and deserves to observe and [gasp] even participate in a process that would still culminate in the mayor’s decision.

While we certainly believe the process should be opened up to more than these three deputy chiefs, our principal beef is the opacity of the process and a speed that could outpace the Millennium Falcon.

Slow down, Mr. Mayor.  There are times when a person may be so eager to get on with something only to have it end too quickly, leaving all parties unsatisfied and disappointed.