Did the Bishop City Council “Diss” the current Interim Police Chief, Josh Ellsworth, when it announced its intentions to offer the job to an “Outsider?”
At the last Bishop City Council meeting, in a letter sent by Bishop Sgt. Dan Nolan, a 20-year police department veteran, the Council’s decision to offer the currently position, opened by the retirement of former Police Chief Ted Stec in November 2020, to an “outsider,” was called a “slap in the face” to the police department’s patrol officers and acting Police Chief Josh Ellsworth. But is it? Why when many, if not most of Bishop’s cops, including Ellsworth, came from other law police agencies themselves? How is this any different?
Apparently, Nolan’s position is that it should be the Police department itself making the decision, citing the support of the Bishop Police Officers Association. Civilian control of our government, whether at the federal, state, or local level, is a vital aspect of democratic governance. It is so in this instance.
While Interim Chief Josh Ellsworth’s tenure leading the department during the search for a replacement has been exemplary, it was the City Council’s decision to make, and they made it, according to Mayor Stephen Muchovej, noting that they were elected to make just such a decision, and that decision was “unanimous.”
The fact is, the position of a police chief is not a popularity contest, especially among officers of a department, or for that matter by current or former local law enforcement officers. While their views are as important as everyone else’s, and should be heard, it is not their call to make. Nor should it ever be.
The candidate chosen by the city, Lt. Richard Standridge, appears to have excellent bona fides having spent 20 years with the City of Porterville Police Department. He also has experience with investigations and is currently serving as the lieutenant with Porterville’s Investigations Division. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in business and is near completion of his master’s degree in justice management from the University of Nevada Reno. And an important consideration, he is also a graduate of POST Command College, a 14-month program designed to prepare law enforcement leaders of today for the challenges of the future.
Standridge is clearly very qualified for the position. So, one might well ask, “How is questioning his selection not a “slap in his face” by Nolan, and by extension the officers whose views he says he represents in the department? Or does Standridge feelings and qualifications not matter because he is not “a local” and not known or personally endorsed by Nolan? And has Nolan’s comments possibly “poisoned the well” and atmosphere at the police department for the potentially new police chief, should he accept the job? If he does, he should be given the same opportunity, respect, and consideration that we have given all of our police chiefs, past and present, both from the existing ranks and from the “outside.”
The city council members could not respond to Nolan’s comments under the state’s rules and regulations in conducting public meetings. For discussion, an item must be on the agenda.
Listeners and viewers can watch Tuesday’s City Council Special Meeting on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, online at City Council Special Meeting – May 19th, 2021 (granicus.com).
Video of May 24, 2021 City Council Meeting.