Wednesday, April 26, 2017

EDITORIAL >> New chief applauded

Jacksonville Police Chief Geoffrey “Jeff” Herweg received a standing ovation at the city council meeting Thursday.

Alderman James Bolden set the tone for the meeting when he said, “I want to personally apologize to our new police chief” for criticism he received in recent weeks.

“I felt it was wrong,” Bolden said, referring to efforts to get the chief fired over an old police record in Texas.

“I can’t stand this negativity. It is our job to present a good picture of the city,” Bolden said.

On one side are the mayor and most of the council, who back the choice of the new police chief, or are at least willing to see how he works out. The mayor’s last department head pick, Fire Chief Alan Laughy, turned out to be solid, even excellent.

On the other side is a faction led by Alderman Tara Smith, who wants the police chief out now no matter what.

Facebook quotes against the mayor and his administration have gotten nasty as Smith continues to lead her opposition. At least two aldermen have received phone calls allegedly threatening their lives if they don’t vote to kick the police chief out. The calls all came from the same phone number. The council does have the right to override the mayor’s pick with a two-thirds vote, meaning at least five more aldermen siding with Smith.

That’s not going to happen, especially when Smith did not appear at the last council meeting to voice her concerns about the mayor’s pick.

Stuck in the middle are most residents who, since they don’t get arrested, don’t get traffic tickets, don’t get robbed or plundered, don’t worry that much about who is running the police department.

State law says the mayor picks his department heads. Don’t like his picks? The solution is easy: Vote the mayor out and have the new person fire all the department heads.

Until then, thank you, Chief Herweg, for your service.