“Shorter Shelf Life” For Police Chiefs In Age Of Video Footage Of Abuse


The tenure of the average urban police chief has never been long but in an age of widely disseminated video footage of fatal police shootings and other accusations of abusive police behavior, some chiefs say the heightened level of scrutiny has radically changed their work, making jobs more difficult, far more political and much less secure, says the New York Times. Being fired by a mayor on live television comes with the territory. “It's almost analogous to a struggling football team — you can't fire the whole team, so you fire the coach,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Mayors are making a statement.”

Before the 2014 fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., of Michael Brown, the effectiveness of most police chiefs was determined largely by crime rates and response times to 911 calls. Now, chiefs say that cultivating better community relations, from curtailing police shootings and eliminating racial profiling to requiring officers to be more polite and professional, has become as important a gauge of success as crime reduction, even though such work does not always easily lend itself to being measured. “Police chiefs definitely have a shorter shelf life post-Ferguson, and they are more scrutinized and criticized for things they weren't held responsible for before,” said Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. “Pre-Ferguson, you were held responsible only for the crime rate — now it is community relations. One egregious act of misconduct by a police officer can get a police chief fired. It wasn't like that before.”

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