Monday, March 12, 2007

Timoney revisited

The March 5 New Yorker had a story about John Timoney (you can read it as a pdf here), who was Philadelphia's Police Chief from around 1998-2002 and is now bringing his reform efforts to the job in Miami, FL. In the current mayoral debate, Dwight Evans has pledged to try to lure the ex-Chief back to Philadelphia, to help bring the murder rates down and improve the functioning of the police force, an idea popular with some and less so with others.

Anyway, the New Yorker piece is equal parts about his sometimes stormy life and about his reforms of troubled police departments (New York, Philly, Miami), but the part that caught my eye was this stretch, which may speak more generally to local difficulties:
Timoney said publicly that he left Philadelphia because he once more wanted to earn money in the private sector, but it was clear from our conversations that almost every aspect of the job had worn him down. He fought constantly with the union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which opposed many of his disciplinary actions, and found it almost impossible to promote on merit because oft he department's civil-service policies. He spent great amounts of time in arbitration hearings and on depositions that almost always favored the disciplined cop.
I'm sure that every police force (and union) has a tendency to protect its own, but this makes it sound like there are cultural factors inside law inforcement, not just in troubled neighborhoods, that can resist attempts to make things better. Just some fodder for the idea mill . . .


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