From Chief to
Public Safety Director
for 30 Pieces of Silver
Law Enforcement News
Saturday, August 14, 2010 5:26 p.m.
the past year or so we've seen a new trend spreading throughout our
Retiring police chiefs say their goodbyes on the
way out the front door and then return through the back door as the
town's new public safety director. In some cases they barely leave the
building or even their office as the deal was quietly struck before
their date of retirement although there is a state required six month
It's a great deal for the new director. He or she
gets the monthly pension check from the Police and Fire Pension as well
as a brandy new salary. Plus, many of their old duties as chief
are moved to the highest ranking officer.
Unfortunately, while this move works out great for
them, in most cases it severely hurts the agency and the men and women
they once led.
The position of public safety director is highly
controversial at best. The only benefits to a town or city are the lower
salary of the public safety director (not always the case) and the
perceived extra powers the governing authority will gain over the
The position also brings about a myriad of
In an average sized department a captain, a
lieutenant, a sergeant and a patrolman will lose their chance at
A conflict between the director and the highest
ranking officer is more than probable: it is an absolute certainty, and
it is not healthy for any organization nevermind a modern-day police
Agency-wide morale takes a hit as other officers
watch promotions and other opportunities for advancement or transfer
The clean lines in the chain of command become
clouded and highly dependent upon the topic of the communication.
It is also confusing to the public who see the
director as the boss but who, in fact, has little if any involvement
with many parts of the police function. Consider the following from the
New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police
position paper on public safety directors:
For example, a civilian “director” cannot
perform police duties including conducting motor vehicle stops,
engaging in patrol activities, answering calls for service and
stopping or detaining individuals. A “director” may not wear a
uniform or badge or carry a firearm, nor may he or she operate a
motor vehicle which is equipped as a police car including police
band radios. Likewise, they have no powers of arrest and may not
issue firearms permits. Further, as a general rule a
“director” may not have access to criminal investigative reports,
nor may he or she have access to criminal history information.
Likewise, such individuals must refrain, unless otherwise
specifically directed by the county prosecutor, from directing the
investigation of criminal activity. Nor may a “director,” as a
civilian appropriate authority, have access to internal affairs
investigative files absent a court order. Moreover, a
“director” may not examine confidential police reports or other
confidential law enforcement documents, nor may he or she access the
police department’s terminal for 12 N.J.S.A. 40A:14-152; N.J.S.A.
In all honesty, most chiefs who swap for public
safety director positions don't do it with malice, and perhaps our
reference to Judas and the 30 pieces of silver was over the top, but
this is how it feels and looks from the trenches. This top-job
swap has lasting affects on many people.
And in an economy where we need to fight for every
job possible, eliminating one position for the benefit of one person is
just not acceptable. A chief or public safety director job is no
more or less important than a patrolman's job.
We're straying as our beef here is with the
backdoor deal makers. The public safety position may be
inevitable, but it shouldn't be the result of behind-the-scenes prodding
by a chief looking for a second career.
All police chiefs should leave their respective
councils or committees with two things: an agency that is better than
when they took it over and a strong recommendation against a public
What do you think? Use the scroll box below to
share your thoughts.
your Thoughts on This
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NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPITALS! Please.
I have to agree, they serve no purpose but to promote in-decision among
the ranks. Their position is nothing more then a political pay
back from the Mayor.
In some cases if the job comes with a car, the Mayor is likely to take
it for himself, as we have seen in many cities, towns, ect.
The public safety director is nothing more then what he is a HACK.
An outsider (as an example, say a retired high ranking federal agent)
can bring considerable investigative and operational experience to the
PD position and augment the department's reputation. The position of the
Association for Chief's of Police is predictable. Clubby, yet
predictable. Organizational diversity can also be defined and viewed as
a qualified person with a different LE culture that brings new ideas and
enthusiasm to the department. Just a thought. To stay the same and never
change is boring.
Good post. It is true that new blood can breed new ideas and there
may be times where a director is beneficial such as during a transition
where the exiting executive did not prepare anyone.
I've heard of a Chief taking a dual title as Public Safety Director and
Chief for the same agency. How is that possible given the above
mentioned limitations? The men I work with may respect the position of
Chief, not the man for his actions, there is still enough political
influence with out a Safety Director.
This topic has been around for many years and for various reasons. More
often than not, the reason a community does not want a Chief is because
the last chief was incompetent, failed to prepare a successor, or failed
to lead properly.
The New Jersey State Chiefs Association is right and wrong in their
position paper. A Sworn Police Director (Capt. serving as Director) has
all the rights the authority as a Police Chief without life tenure.
Civilian Directors, in the absence of a Chief, do in fact have authority
over Day to Day operations. They can operate an unmarked vehicle with a
radio. They cannot investigate, stop cars, or view Internal Affairs
Investigative Reports unless they have the authority from the County
Prosecutor. They can display a badge and carry a firearm, but only with
a Retired Law Enforcement Officers Carry Permit.
You are so right in that a Police Chief should leave his/her agency in
better condition than when they took command. As far as back door deals
are concerned, well we only have ourselves to blame.
I worked in an agency that had a public safety director, and they
switched back to a chief recently...While he was a civil service Cpt, he
was positioned as a director...Everything a director isn't supposed to
do, he was doing.
Your comments are right on. Some chiefs cannot retire in peace,
they cannot let the job go. Their power and there whole persona
depend on it
The Chiefs Association has removed chiefs from their organization and it
should happen to anyone who pulls this stunt.
I am a retired Captain and totally agree. My 30 man dept. is exactly the
scenario you describe. I left just before it occurred. I was 2nd in
command for 10yrs. The chief, who has over a million dollars in
inheritance money by the way, decided to stay until 65.
In a further move to reduce costs the town promoted one of the most
junior, less than 5 yrs. actual police experience, to Captain to
de-moralize the senior officers. Faced with no prospects of promotion to
Chief and other ranks some are retiring. This pays for my old chief's
Morale is non-existent and the dept. is being run by an incompetent and
experienced individual. Who suffers the most, the cops who are
miserable, going nowhere for the remainder of their careers or the
public having a police force led by a rookie?
My director has his nose in all Internal Affairs issues. Carries a
Weapon during work. I think he broke all the above listed policies. What
could possible happen to him? Really? This is all a joke. The people
that want to kiss ass to get promoted will share all information with
him just to get ahead.