Replacing the Police Chief

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Case 1
Replacing the Police Chief

This case study examines the predicament of a city manager Will Spanning whose selection of a most experienced and qualified replacement for the chief of police faced stern opposition by a majority of an agenda-seeking city council who had the power to confirm or reject the appointment. Question 1: What were the advantages and risks involved in pursuing Spanning’s recruitment plan?

Spanning’s recruitment plan was a thorough, comprehensive, and systematic strategy to procure the most appropriate and qualified individual for the position of police chief. It was a plan that provided checks and balances, allotted for contingencies and was multi-tier in evaluating each candidate’s experience and background. It consisted of four stages of consideration. The first of these was an initial screening of respondents to the advertisement to identify candidates with the most potential and promise. Spanning had assembled a review board consisting of five professionals in the areas of management and law enforcement and those selected from the initial screening were interviewed and ranked by the board. Based on the review board’s rankings, Spanning then personally interviewed the finalist with focus on issues of compensation and more importantly compatibility between he and that individual. This was important because Spanning and soon to be resigning Police Chief Johnson had previously formed a healthy professional alliance that encouraged compromise and negotiation in matters relating to municipal issues and resource allocation rather than conflict and cut-throat politics. In addition to Spanning’s personal interview, he also conducted a comprehensive background check of the candidate and subsequently offered them the position. Finally, the appointee would be interviewed and later confirmed by the city council or the search process would begin again at square one. The process was advantageous because it not only reduced the opportunity for political agendas to influence the decision but also created a more democratic and objective method of selection by the manager as he did not bear the sole responsibility of appointing a candidate to the position. By the same token, Spanning’s strategy faced the uncertain climate of split ideological and decision patterns by two opposing subgroups within the council. Question 2: As a city manager, Spanning exercised administrative authority of Police Chief Johnson. Would it have been proper for Spanning to seek to delay the arrest of Randy Redmond until after that night’s council meeting? What would be the benefits and risks of such a strategy?

A decision by Spanning to exercise any influence on the matters of an impending criminal investigation or arrest would be an unlawful and unethical misuse of his authority as city manager. Although delay of the arrest would certainly temporarily reduce the complications involving the son of one of his advocates in the council, exerting this kind of influence would be a risk of his own professional credibility and an abandonment of the commitment to excellence and ethical fairness in local governance as described in the ICMA Code of the Ethics. Even if it meant risking his job in the short run, caving in to the pressures of outside influences would be even more detrimental to the character of his leadership and would contradict any personal valuation with regard to justice and fair ethical treatment for all. Question 3: What, if any would be the ethical implications of action to defer Redmond’s arrest? Given the existing threat to Spanning’s effectiveness as city manager, if not to his job, would it be appropriate to put these ethical considerations aside? Given the importance of the appointment to the community’s welfare, would it be appropriate to put these ethical considerations aside to secure Warren’s appointment?

In their simplest form, the concepts of best ethical...
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