“You deal with that by being transparent,” McDevitt said.
“For example, if ... you go to a fundraiser sponsored by people supporting your candidacy, do other people in town think (the fundraisers) somehow are going to get preferential treatment by the police department? That’s something you just have to be aware of, that there’s an appearance (of a conflict) and deal with it straightaway ...”
Potential conflicts aside, Cunningham, the Wellesley chief and an officer in the International Association of Chiefs of Police, believes that being a police chief is good training for the Legislature.
“When you start talking about homeless issues, and housing issues, and folks with mental illness, and juvenile issues, somebody like a police chief has dealt with that,” he said. “And what’s the number one thing you have to do as a (representative)? You have to respond to your constituents. That’s what a chief does every day.”
McDevitt does not think sitting police chiefs should have to step down before running — just be careful.
“You don’t want to deny a community an opportunity to have a strong leader,” he said, “and deny an individual who has done well by a community an opportunity to progress.”
But a police chief, he said, should “be upfront and transparent and anticipate the concerns of people — that’s all you can do.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.