Some advice for the new chief

by Brian Clarey

This week the city of Greensboro formally announced that Kenneth Miller will be the new chief of the Greensboro Police Department as of Sept. 1.

Miller comes to us from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department, where he served for more than 20 years, most recently as deputy chief.

We’re not here to second-guess the city’s hiring decision — with a background in military and law enforcement, Miller seems well qualified for the job, at least on paper. Besides, he’s already got the job, so that ship has sailed.

What we would like to do is give our new chief a heads-up about the situation he inherited in the department, which we have been covering exhaustively since we began publishing in January 2005, and our concerns about how it will play out when he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work cleaning house. So if you’re reading, Chief Miller, please pay heed.

For starters, Chief, you should be reading this newspaper, along with every other one in town. You should be paying attention to the lively back and forth on our local blogosphere as well. Characterizing our efforts as “noise,” as you did at your induction ceremony on Monday, is not a good sign. And it wouldn’t hurt to get out on the streets once in a while to speak to the people and hear their concerns. It would be a mistake to rely solely on sources inside the department for your information about the citizenry you’re here to protect and serve — not to say that staff inside the department and city won’t be a useful font of valuable information. We just don’t want you to ensconce yourself inside a bubble when it comes to reading the level of the room, so to speak.

We also don’t want you to hide behind personnel laws when dealing with a press and the citizenry hungry for information — a lack of transparency is what got us here in the first place. Remember that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

You should know that there are a lot of good cops on your force — most of them, actually — who are not embroiled in controversy or political maneuvering. The bulk of the cops in Greensboro are here to do their jobs as best they can, but when they see fellow officers met with unequal treatment, unfair policies or outright scapegoating, they understandably lose faith in the system.

And remember this: What you have inherited is not a public-relations problem. What you have is a crisis of confidence in our department, stemming from actual — not perceived — problems that plague both officers and citizens alike.

Most would agree, whatever side of the GPD controversies they fall on, that leadership is what has been lacking in the department, what is sorely needed. And leadership is what you were brought in to instill on this force — not just for a few cops, but for all of them. We hope that the only color you can see on the force is a steely shade of blue.

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