Chief: Changes needed

Published 12:01 am Friday, June 6, 2008

FERRIDAY — There were 10 applicants for the chief of police position in Ferriday, but current chief Richard Madison wasn’t one of them.

And Madison said he had no desire to apply.

He’s not a fan of the way Ferriday’s police department is governed, and he said he feels he hasn’t been allowed to run an effective department while in office.

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“I am not mad about this, that they want a new chief of police, but the thing is my time is valuable,” Madison said. “I know I wouldn’t be chosen. This is a charade.”

In Ferriday, the position of chief of police is appointed by the mayor rather than by election.

That is exactly the problem, Madison said.

“In an appointed system, the Ferriday chief of police has to adhere to the guidelines established by the mayor,” Madison said. “The chief does not have the authority to recommend the personnel to work for him nor the authority to recommend personnel for termination. You’ve got to dance to the music of the mayor.”

In order to improve the quality of law enforcement, the chief must be able to have a greater authority over those personnel, Madison said.

Likewise, the chief does not set the agenda for the department under the appointed system.

“There were programs I would have loved to implement, but because I had to go to the mayor and get the funds, because those funds have to be secured from the mayor and the board of aldermen, I wasn’t able to,” Madison said.

“An elected chief can go before the board and ask for that, but an appointed chief has to go through the mayor, and if the mayor does not think something is a problem then he won’t put it on the agenda.”

Mayor-elect Glen McGlothin said he would prefer that the police chief position be elected, and that he would work to move the city in that direction.

“That’s just not something you can do overnight,” McGlothin said.

His approach to the police department would be hands-off, McGlothin said.

“I don’t bother the chief unless he comes to me,” he said. “I don’t try to micromanage the police department.”

To eliminate some of the disconnect between the chief and the board, McGlothin said he will have all department heads attend board meetings.

“That way, if they have any questions for the board, they can ask (the board), and if the board or the public has any questions or comments for (the department heads), they can ask them,” McGlothin said.

Madison also said he feels some of the other roles he played as a town employee have been overlooked.

“I have not received one congratulatory comment from the board or the mayor for the grants I have secured for the police and the city,” Madison said. “That’s not sour grapes. That’s just the way it is.”

In the meantime, a four-person committee will be interviewing the applicants for chief, and McGlothin said the new chief would likely be chosen sometime next week.

As for Madison, he has applied for the chief of police position in Greenwood, and is waiting to hear that city’s final decision.