While the Prince George's County Police Department has made significant progress in becoming more responsive to the community, it will not be as responsive as it should be until it is also truly and visibly representatives of the diverse population residing and working in the county.
Since being promoted to chief of police, I have made a concentrated effort to improve the police department's ability to provide better service to our citizens. One of the ways in which I believe better service can be provided is by a department more representative of the community. Because of these concerns, we have made a concentrated effort to bring minorities into the department. Despite budgetary constraints, which prohibited hiring for the past two years, it has been possible since 1975 to almost triple the number of blacks in the department through aggressive recruiting of entry-level officers. Little progress has been made, however, in bringiing minorities into the policy-making level of the departmennt. Presently, our highest ranking female officer is a captain and the highest ranking black officer is a sergeant.
Under provisions of the county charter and personnel law, officers must progress step by step up the rank ladder through a series of competitive evaluations and examinations to select the best qualified officers for those few promotional opportunities available each year. Even for the best qualified officers, progress is slow. Whether white or black, male or female, such an officer could not progress from the rank of sergeant to a top command rank in less than five or six years.
However, there already is a need for blacks on the command staff of the Prince George's County Police Deparment and for at least one representative of the black community on the immediate staff of the chief of police, where he or she can influence the policies and priorities of the department.
Several proposals have been developed to provide a means of bringing minorities with extensive, high-level police experience into the top ranks of the police department. A position at the rank of lieutenant colonel has been advertised, which would be open to a broader range of applicants than the majors of this department. There are parallels to this action in both the private sector and government. When a company in the private sector is in a service business, and it experiences a need to deliver a better service to a segment of the market, it recruits outside of its organization. The same applies to many agencies of government. In effect, you cannot always wait for promotions from within or until certain expertise is developed internally to provide that specialized service. And as a police department, wer are a service-oriented organization.
Since none of the department's majors are members of minority groups, it would be necessary to pass over all of the majors to select a minority representative for that position. Although such a seclection might be legal, there would doubtless be litigation challenging the selection.The plaintiffs in that litigation would be the very police officials with whom the new lieutenant colonel would have to work most closely. In my opinion, this would be an untenable situation, both for the majors and the new lieutenant colonel.
Perhaps a better means of integrating the command staff of the police department would be to ask the voters of the county to amend the charter to provide for exemption from the merit ordinance for several or all positions above the rank of police captain. This would allow each chief of police to select the staff with which he can work most effectively and to pursue affirmative-action goals through non-competitive selection of higher ranking officials.
The charter amendment would, of course, have to provide protection for the positions of those already in the ranks of major and lieutenant colonel. It would apply only to those selected after the amendment is passed.
This proposal should not be interpreted as a reflection on the competence of the present command staff of the department. The staff is excellent. However, there are considerations other than competence or excellence of individuals that go into the development of a totally effective staff. In addition to training and experience, these include interaction of personalities, balance of viewpoints and affirmative action. A chief of police should be allowed to weigh all of these considerations if he is to provide effective and responsive leadership. CAPTION: Picture, no caption.