So, Who’s in Charge Then?

The Commercial Appeal reports on a recommendation by the Metropolitan Government Charter Commission’s public safety task force that would make the Sheriff, an elected official mandated by state law, responsible for all law enforcement in the County.

Under the endorsement adopted by the Metropolitan Government Charter Commission’s public safety task force, the sheriff would then appoint a police chief or director who would answer to the sheriff.

The recommendation seems tenuous at best. The option was endorsed 2-1 by the three charter commissioner members on the task force. Millington Mayor Richard Hodges, who voted with County Commissioner J.W. Gibson II, said he could change his mind within a week because he still has questions.

I haven’t talked much in the past several weeks about the business of the Charter Commission, mostly because I haven’t had time to really delve into the issues. But this one, without even looking at all the issues discussed, seems like a bad idea.

Think about it like this; we have a Mayor, or county executive that the people elect to provide direction for the entire Metro Government. Part of that direction includes budgeting for all services provided by the Government including law enforcement. Under this proposal, the Sheriff would have the authority to appoint a police director, even if the Mayor or County Executive opposes that appointment.

Under the these circumstances, who couldn’t see the possibility of the Mayor and Sheriff having a contentious relationship or differing priorities and one trying to use their authority to undermine the other?

The reality is, there has to be a simple chain of command, and this proposal muddies the waters beyond belief.

Hopefully, the members of the Metro Charter Commission will see this potential conflict and choose the option proposed by Chairman Rufus Washington which would make the Sheriff responsible for the Courts and Jails and a Police Director that reports directly to their budgetary officer…the Mayor.




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