McQueen Addresses Promotions, Testing Questions
Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen sent a response to my column last week (Robert’s Rules Of Order, Robert Smith’s Rules, that is) and that response can be seen accompanying this column. In the column, I was critical of McQueen’s decision not to promote police officers within the CPD at this time. I was also critical of the lateral hiring process that was approved by the Civil Service Commission recently. Since last week, I’ve done more research on lateral hiring and have spoken with a police chief of a larger municipality (with 30 years experience in law enforcement) on the plus and minuses of lateral hiring. He cited more minuses, but stated that the Columbus CPD version of lateral hiring would be unique if not totally unprecedented because the Columbus Police Department could hire a lieutenent from another department, allowing the individual to keep their rank in the transfer. In most cases involving lateral transfer, it involves only sergeants on down to entry-level officers.
Around Columbus, the talk has been that this entire process started because Mayor Robert Smith wanted to hire a higher-ranking officer from a Mississippi Delta police force (reportedly a cousin of his, but that has not been confirmed. RW).
In fairness to Chief McQueen, I spoke with him at the Facebook Watch Meet & Greet Tuesday night. In my previous column, I had also stated that I didn’t believe that the chief had taken the test required to be promoted within the CPD (I based that on speaking with several former Columbus police chiefs who could not recall McQueen being tested. RW). Tuesday night, he told me that he had been tested many times during his tenure with the CPD. (Note: He wasn’t being specific. There are many different types of testing involved with being a police officer. A ‘promotional test’ and ‘testing’ are two different animals. RW).
In his response, Chief McQueen seems to insinuate that when I write, I’m taking my marching orders from someone else (in this case, police officers who were on the promotion list and got passed over would likely be who he is refering too. RW). Tuesday, I told Chief McQueen that, before I wrote that column, I had not spoken to the first police officer about the situation…not the first one. My opinion in that column was based of news articles and facts that had come to light in the past few weeks involving promotions and lateral hiring. After telling him that, I don’t think he believed me because he repeated his position stated in his response that, “informal leadership (within the CPD) is not a good thing.”
There have been others that suggested the issue within the department is about race. That black officers are solidly behind McQueen and white officers aren’t. But that theory was also busted when I had at least 2 black Columbus police officers stop me Tuesday and tell me they appreciated the column. This is not about black and white. Let’s make that clear. It’s about hard working police officers of all colors deserving to be promoted. The difference between right and wrong will trump the race card everytime. On a positive note, McQueen did indicate that he intends to promote some police officers in the near future.
In somewhat of a defense to McQueen, I realize he has a really tough job, especially with the always heavy-hand of Robert Smith looming over him. I’ve heard that he’s locked horns with Mayor Smith a time or two, which is usually necessary for any city department head but is always especially true when it comes to the position of police chief. Several heated discussions took place between Mayor Smith and former police chief Joseph St John as well. Former Police Chief J. D. Sanders never gave the mayor an opportunity. He bolted after hearing that Smith had been elected for his first term.
A letter I received from Chief McQueen after last week’s column:
Dear Mr. Ron Williams,
I have read your article within the Columbus Packet and issue the following response.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
A pen and a few blank pieces of paper can be powerful weapons and in the wrong hands downright dangerous. I would appeal to you to use your weapons for good and not evil.
I have indeed taken promotional examinations and obviously done quite well. In fact, it may come to your amazement, but I have no problems with reading, writing, or interpreting the context of your article entitled Robert’s Rules of Order (Robert Smith’s Rules, that is).
In the past, when a nation went to war, the King would fight on the battlefield alongside of his men. Today, the King hides behind the one who pushes the pen. I don’t know about you, but where I come from that’s being a coward. Hopefully, your pen is not being pushed on behalf of the limited informal leadership both within and without the Columbus Police Department. Informal leadership tears at the very fabric of our existence. I sincerely pray for those who would try to find and exploit conflict instead of binding our community together to improve the quality of life for everyone. And yes, you are right; every orchestra has to have a conductor.
My door is open and since we have never had a conversation, I invite you to stop by. I think that the majority of the good men and women within the Columbus Police Department are quite pleased with the direction that we are headed.
One of the murders has been solved and we look forward to a successful prosecution, as this is only the beginning. We are holding people to standards, to include their appearance and conduct. We don’t do this job for the money, power, or prestige. We do it because we care. The potential of serious bodily harm is an everyday hazard that we face. It is my job to ensure that promotions are made only on the basis of merit and efficiency. Further, those personnel carry out their duties in a manner consistent with the goals and objectives of the Columbus Police Department.
And in closing, I ask the question Mr. Williams, who are you conducting for?
Chief of Police
Facebook Watch Meet and Greet
On a night when the Columbus, Ms Facebook Watch group hit 4500 members, the internet group had their first ever meet & greet that drew around 100 people to the David Lavender Coliseum at the Columbus Fairgrounds Tuesday night. The watch group was formed back in December. Since then, its Facebook membership has ballooned to numbers that has even gotten the attention of political, civic and business leaders all over the area.
I had visited the Columbus City Council meeting earlier and when it appeared the meeting would be a fairly short one, I had hoped some of the city officials would show up at the meet & greet. The Facebook Watch Meet & Greet started at 6 p.m. and before 6:30, two Columbus police officers joined the already present handful of Lowndes sheriff deputies and investigators at the meeting (including Sheriff Mike Arledge). Not long afterwards, Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen showed up (The meeting had already ended but everyone was still present just mingling and introducing themselves to other members). McQueen took the stage and made a short speech, promising full support from his department to the group.
Facebook Watch co-founder Kris Jourdan MC’ed the event. She invited Sheriff Arledge to say the prayer and speak to the gathering. The sheriff told the crowd that several tips from Watch members had helped the Lowndes County SO make some arrests and credited the group with helping lower the crime rate in the county. Smiles and applause ensued with that bit of information.
In addition to the two Columbus police officers and Chief McQueen, Ward 3 City Councilman Charlie Box attended as well. Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant showed up. District 3 Supervisor John Holliman was also in attendance. Chief Deputy Marc Miley and Investigator Tony Cooper helped represent the SO, along with Billy Wood and others. Emergency responder Sharee Karg was also on hand.
Nordquist introduced some of the Facebook Watch administrators to the crowd, including Mac Martin who got up and spoke. Martin reminded the crowd of the purpose of the Watch group. 911, emergency responders and volunteer firefighters (David Perry was one) were also represented in the crowd.
ColumbusTalks creator Thom Geiger was there and video recorded the proceedings. Musician Paul Trimm provided the P.A. system. Jane Burns-jordan, who oversees the David Lavender Coliseum, provided the group with the building. She said she rents the building for $250 a night, normally. She also said the building still hosts Roller Derby and other activities (The David Lavender Coliseum has hosted many concerts, rodeo’s and other type events over the years dating back to the 60’s. RW).
More Facebook Watch meetings could be in the making for the not-too-distant future.
In the end, I did hear some positive things from Chief McQueen Tuesday night. The crowd at the Facebook Watch Meet & Greet was appreciative that he attended and offered his assistance and support, joining Sheriff Arledge and the SO who had long been onboard. Any type of assistance to law enforcement from citizens is always a good thing. That is the driving force behind the Columbus, Ms Facebook Watch group…to help law enforcement so we can all live our live’s safe and crime-free.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0