You can debate whether Lee Brand’s decision to select an interim police chief as Jerry Dyer’s successor is the right one.
You also can question the optics of his stunning change-of-course after City Hall conducted a national search that heavily involved the community.
But I have no doubts about the purity of Brand’s motives.
This Was Classic Lee Brand, Not a Bait-and-Switch
What transpired Friday wasn’t a charade. Nor was it a bait-and-switch orchestrated by Dyer, who is running for mayor.
After interviewing the five chief finalists, Brand — in consultation with his top advisors — concluded that the candidates weren’t up to this demanding job or not quite ready to assume command.
Then Brand did what he has done many times previously in his 11 years as a city councilman and mayor.
He looked at the situation from every angle possible. He deliberated and sought counsel. And, with scant regard for political messaging or the public’s capacity to understand what the hell is going on, he came forward with his solution.
Judge Hall on His Performance
Brand’s Plan B was Andy Hall, a deputy chief who is a 40-year veteran of the department. Back in the 1990s, many of his fellow officers said that he had the smarts and the drive to be police chief someday. But Dyer got the job in 2001 and — against all odds — kept it for 18 years.
Hall is the perfect choice in this imperfect situation. Even if he never interviewed for the job and headed to a City Hall meeting Wednesday expecting to be asked to assist the new chief.
He has the respect of the department. He loves this city and its residents. And his goals in the short time he’ll serve as Fresno’s top cop are to enhance community policing efforts and further develop the leadership skills of the department’s command staff.
Fresno citizens should judge Hall by his performance and not for the unusual, if not downright bizarre, manner that he got this promotion.
Not that Hall expects the doubters and the critics to soon quiet their voices.
“I’ve got a honeymoon period, and it ends tomorrow,” he said, barely breaking a smile.
The Larger Truth of Brand’s Decision
The conventional wisdom is that Brand punted on a difficult decision. There’s truth to that. And there have been times when the mayor’s reluctance to act before fully scrubbing the smallest of details has frustrated his backers and created vacuums quickly filled by his opponents. Exhibit A: His too-little, too-late pitch for a parks-cops sales tax in 2018.
But the larger truth is that Brand wants to be 100% sold on the man or woman he selects as Dyer’s permanent successor. When that didn’t happen, he changed course and invited public ridicule rather than pick someone he wasn’t comfortable with.
The mayor could’ve picked one of the finalists and been done with it. After all, his time as mayor ends next year. But that’s not the Lee Brand I know. His word is his bond. He does what he believes is right. Even if no one else does.
Check Back Next Year
Now the hunt for Dyer’s long-term successor continues.
Brand wants all to know that he, in consultation with city manager Wilma Quan, will make the selection sometime in 2020.
“I promised that I would pick a police chief before I left office, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Brand said.
Best sooner than later.
But, as the mayor has made perfectly clear in good times and bad, he’ll do it on his own schedule and in concert with his conscience. Even if it requires — heaven forbid — a Plan C.