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Our Opinion: Chief selection process looks sound

April 07, 2009|By IMPERIAL VALLEY STAFF

It appears El Centro is nearing the end of its search for a new police chief. It has been a year since former chief Leonard Knight resigned and Harold Carter was named interim chief.

The search has taken much longer than we believe it should have, but we are glad to see the end is near and the city will soon have a new chief.

While this has been an unnecessarily long process, we do like the fact that a panel of outside, impartial officers made the recommendation for the top two finalists to the city. Representatives from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Imperial County Sheriff’s Department and the Police Advisory Board were involved in the process, and their recommendation went to City Manager Ruben Duran, who was not involved in the panel’s work.

This means Duran, who will make the chief selection, took himself out of the process in the recommendation phase. That was smart, because the police selection process has become a very political issue, as El Centro police captain and chief applicant Eddie Madueno is a local favorite of many. Apparently, however, the panel did not recommend him in the top two. We credit Duran for not simply selecting Madueno, but instead forming a panel to give all applicants an unbiased look.

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That doesn’t mean Duran must select one of the top two candidates as chosen by the panel. But if he doesn’t, that makes the entire process fairly meaningless. We believe the city should pick the best possible candidate for the job, not necessarily the best local candidate.

The city will also require any chief selected from outside the area to relocate to El Centro. That was a problem with Knight and the city is smart to make living here a requirement. We want a police chief who not only works for the city but who is a productive, active member of the community.

Make no mistake — this selection is important. If Duran names another police chief who has the problems that Knight had, the blame will and should fall squarely on Duran’s shoulders. The city needs stable leadership in the police chief position, and it’s up to Duran to make that happen. The process appears to have been a good one, now let’s see if it works.

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