The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Landy Black Named New Police Chief

City Manager Bill Emlen at last night's Davis City Council Meeting announced that Seattle Police Captain Landy Black has accepted a job offer for the position of Police Chief. Captain Black's tenure will officially begin on April 9, 2007. Interim Police Chief Steve Pierce will once again return to his previous position of Assistant Police Chief. Captain Black's starting salary will be $130,421.50 which is the highest salary in the city's salary schedule.

In previous interviews, Captain Black expressed support for strong community outreach and civilian review of police operations.

The People's Vanguard of Davis notes that as Captain he oversees the very diverse East Precinct in Seattle and thus has experience working with diverse groups of people in terms of race and socio-economic status.

Captain Black also expressed a willingness to meet with various community groups and citizens on a regular basis. He believes that police departments are not doing service to the community if not communicating with critical people. But there is a dual responsibility. The community needs to inform them about where they can make improvements. He also wants to know when they are doing the right thing and not just the wrong thing.

This is one of the most important hires that the city of Davis will have to make in the next few years. I was uncomfortable with the process being as a private as it was. Since the process was private and there was limited outside and community input, City Manager Bill Emlen bears a large responsibility for this hire and its overall outcome.

In the course of my interview with Captain Black I was struck by a number of observations. First of all, he said a lot of the right things. He spoke about the willingness to work with a broad group of citizens, he spoke of the need for community-police dialog, he spoke of the need for good systems of oversight, etc. This leaves me hopeful that Captain Black will be able to mend some of the fences between some groups in this community and the police. If he can build bridges within the community and lead the department in a strong manner, then he will be a tremendous asset to this community.

On the other hand, there were a number of statements that he made there were less than reassuring. Overall, I found him to be very well prepared for the interview and very well rehearsed in his public statements. This was a comment consistently made by every individual I spoke with. And it was a matter of some concern that he may be telling people what he knew they wanted to hear.

Moreover in our conversation he mentioned that he did not believe that the department was facing problems. This took be aback somewhat, although I recognize that in interviewing for a job, perhaps Captain Black was less in the position to be candid about whatever potential problems face him in his new job.

In one of the few really pointed statements by the Ombudsman Bob Aaronson, Mr. Aaronson wrote:
"Based on many discussions with Department members, is the need for quality leadership and clear supervision that uniformly holds people accountable. Without intending to disrespect the hard work of current and former supervisors and administrators, it does appear that the turnover in staff, and particularly in chiefs, has undermined the organization’s supervisory chain of command, its vision and its morale. By all reports, these problems pre-existed the Buzayan incident. There is no more critical decision to be made for the Department in the next twelve months than the selection of the next Chief of Police."
This has been a consistent concern speaking to people in and around the police department. This is also an opportunity for the new police chief to be able to step in and provide structure and stability where it has been lacking in recent years. And while my statements sound a somewhat cautionary tale, I remain hopeful that Captain Black who has many strong qualities will be a good and successful chief and can carry through on many of the ideas and ideals that he brings to Davis. As always, we will be closely watching the actions of the new chief and monitoring the department as a whole.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting