SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 26, 2014

Letter: On Salem, civil service and police chiefs

(Continued)

We have had outstanding leadership for the better part of a century and are blessed with a department of talented individuals that, given the opportunity, will carry on the traditions set forth by a number of great chiefs that we have enjoyed for decades.

It is my experience that when you give an individual a new position of responsibility, in this case chief, you must also give him or her the authority to exercise that authority and responsibility without them feeling that “If I don’t do what the mayor or town administrator wants, I could lose my job.” Thus, for the very reason that you want to look outside of the department, the responsibility and authority does not rest with the chief.

I am uniquely qualified to speak on this issue as it has come up very often at the monthly meetings over the years of my membership. The comments most often end in laughter as the outcomes are often the same. Police and the chiefs in particular are a different breed. They are brothers who are committed to law enforcement and have a single focus — upholding the law. To disrupt this closeness, and one only has to watch the “Brotherhood” on TV when one of their own is killed in action, to fully know what I mean.

It is my strong advice in a subject that I am, again, uniquely qualified to speak on, that the mayor rethink this approach as far as the police or fire departments are concerned. I think that it would do more harm than good and disrupt two really great city departments that have rightly earned their reputation and respect from, not only our citizens, but of all state law enforcement officials. To lead a force like the police, you must have walked in their shoes and understand the dynamics of the daily work of the department. It is far different than hiring a DPW director.

B.P. Biff Michaud

CEO

The Salem Witch Museum

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