Tonight, city councilors will debate whether to formally ask Mayor Domenic Sarno to hold off on appointing a new police commissioner until the Council has the chance to vote on a proposal to restore a city Police Commission.
But would that formal request even matter?
Sarno has made it clear that he does not support a revival of the Police Commission, as proposed by a number of councilors; indeed, his Law Department has said that, without the mayor’s backing, the Council doesn’t have legal authority to create a commission. Instead, Sarno favors the one-commissioner model now in place, and he’s moving forward with his plan to hire one of the SPD’s three deputy chiefs to replace current Commissioner William Fitchet after he retires later this year.
Sarno’s decision to conduct those interviews privately—as well as his earlier decision not to hold a national search for Fitchet’s replacement—has met with considerable criticism from some councilors and city residents, who say it’s the sort of opaque, behind-closed-doors approach that a Police Commission is needed to remedy.
Council President Mike Fenton, a Police Commission supporter, has also expressed concern that Sarno will sign a contract with Fitchet’s replacement before the Council has the opportunity to debate and then vote on the Commission matter—hence, tonight’s vote asking that the mayor hold off until that proposal has run its course through the Council. It’s hard to imagine that Sarno would heed such a request, however; all his public comments about the single commissioner vs. Police Commission issue have had a pretty uncompromising, the-buck-stops-here quality to them.
The proposed Police Commission ordinance is currently before the Public Safety committee.