Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guild to Chief: No Confidence

On June 11, the Bainbridge Island Police Guild publicly announced "no confidence" in Chief Jon Fehlman. In a 29-page letter delivered to the Mayor, the Guild calls for the Chief's resignation, citing his "poor executive leadership, indifference, lack of integrity, and poor policy decisions." The ICP Policing Committee released the following statement on June 19:

Islanders for Collaborative Policing (“ICP”) was formed in 2011 to promote a better relationship between Bainbridge Island residents and their police department. It organized a citizen’s committee with the goal of proposing policies to foster collaboration and build trust between the community and the BIPD.

We, the ICP citizen’s committee, take note of the Police Guild’s recent vote of “no confidence” in Police Chief John Fehlman, and its June 11 letter to City Council urging the Chief’s removal from office. We neither support nor oppose the call for Chief Fehlman's termination. Nor are we in a position to verify the Guild’s list of asserted failings. We do, however, endorse the following general propositions: 

First, BIPD must build a collaborative relationship with all island residents. The Chief’s practice of speaking only to friendly audiences and/or his refusal to speak to some community groups would, if true, represent a big part of the problem impairing BIPD's relationship with the Bainbridge community. If this is an accurate portrayal of the Chief’s attitude, it must be corrected. 

Second, BIPD should have a strategic plan, or — at the very least — definitive goals and priorities that are communicated to both Island residents and City officials. According to the Guild's letter, the Chief has no short-­‐ or long-­‐term plan for the Department, and does not meet (or even communicate) with supervisory staff to establish objectives. If so, this too calls for corrective measures. 

Lastly, the Chief — like all members of the BIPD — must take laws, rules, and policies seriously. We agree that all public servants should be held accountable for improper or illegal actions, especially those substantially impairing their job performance and other public interests. If the City's investigation corroborates the Guild's charges, and if those findings indicate a substantial breach by Chief Fehlman of the law, the rules governing his employment, his performance expectations, or the terms of his contract, we urge the City to take all reasonable and lawful steps to remedy that misconduct. 

We applaud the Guild for taking a public stand and insisting on ethical, collaborative, and competent leadership. The ICP citizen’s committee shares these goals, and looks forward to working with the BIPD and City to achieve them.

update, September 11: Bainbridge Chief Resigns Post