Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hail to the Chief

Pottstown Police Capt. Rick Drumheller
Well the members of borough council didn't have to work too hard to find a new police chief to replace Mark Flanders, whose retirement becomes official next month.

Monday night, Pottstown Council President Stephen Toroney confirmed that the "search committee" charged with seeking out a new candidate has not exactly broken a sweat.

It has not advertised for the post -- anywhere.

It has sought out no interested candidates through channels.

In fact, it has interviewed no candidates.

What it has done, with little apparent deliberation, is taken the path of least resistance and recommend the appointment of Police Captain Richard Drumheller as the new chief.

Regular readers will recall that as far back as November, when I correctly predicted that insider Jeff Sparagana would be named the new schools superintendent, that I also ventured to predict Drumheller's ascension as well.

Not that it was terribly hard to predict.

In the 16 or so years I've been in Pottstown, I can think of very few occasions in which borough leaders have ventured far outside their comfort zone in choosing top managers.

Which is not to say that Drumheller won't do a good job.

He is a nice guy and very dedicated and there is something to be said for promoting from within.

According to one web site, Pottstown's violent crime rate is twice 

the national average. Was this considered in selecting a new chief?
While this does give employees the sense that their dedication and staying with Pottstown will be rewarded, it also gives the impression to the community that all one needs to do is hang on long enough in Pottstown and eventually, you'll get the top spot.

Perhaps more important, and somewhat disturbing, however, is the fact that this decision comes in the context of a recent post by Pottstown PATCH that looked at crime rates in Pottstown as compared to the national average.

The news was not good.

According to the information there, the violent crime rate in Pottstown is nearly double the national average.

PATCH gleaned the information from a site called "Neighborhood Scout," which uses computer algorithms and crime data to produce statistics it claims to be 90 percent accurate.

"Overall, the Pottstown area scores a 7 out of 100 on the crime index, with 100 being the safest. The data states that there are 190 violent crimes and 1,066 property crimes committed annually, and the violent crime crime rate of 8.44 per 1,000 residents if more than double the statewide average of 3.55," PATCH reported.

The article did not say if this rate was an increase or decrease over previous rates, so its hard to say if things have gotten better or worse under the current law enforcement leadership.

But it sure seems like a pertinent question to ask.

Mark Flanders
One might hope that information like this would stir at least discussion of some thinking among those charged with seeking out the borough's top law enforcement officer, but then, this is Pottstown and ... come on say it out loud with me ... "that's the way we've always done it."

In terms of Pottstown's crime rate, one might be inspired to ask "and how's that working out for ya?"

Anyway, at least we were spared the masquerade and expense of a fruitless search done primarily for show.

When it came to replacing Jason Bobst, who came to us from outside the comfort zone by the way, council sought out dozens and dozens of qualified candidates only to chose the one with whom they were most familiar, and one whose entire municipal experience has been in law enforcement.

Bobst's replacement, soon-to-be-former Police Chief Mark Flanders himself said that he had a "steep learning curve" when it came to taking over the manager's post, but that didn't stop council from paying him more than Bobst, who, having served as interim finance director, had a demonstrably gentler learning curve and helped to get the borough's tangled finances into order.

At least in Drumheller's case, his prior experience is relevant to the new and we wish him the best.

Let's see how that crime rate works out in a year or two.

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