First things first. The idea of making the head of the Riley County Police Department an elected rather than an appointed position ought to be quashed quickly.
One of the present arrangement’s strengths is that the post is not subject — at least not much — to political winds. Today’s bitter and heavily funded partisan environment would not likely serve the cause of justice. And popularity should not be a qualification.
The job has been held by a limited number of professionals with considerable law enforcement and management experience and integrity. They were chosen through a competitive process by the Riley County Law Board, some of whose members serve on city and county governing bodies and some of whom are ordinary citizens.
Second, a group whose members call themselves Citizens Assuring Transparency ought to be more, well, transparent. It is this group that, for unstated purposes — its members aren’t saying much — wants RCPD directors elected every four years.
It took some legwork, but Mercury staff acquired the names of two persons associated with Citizens Assuring Transparency. One is its organizer, David Stuckman, who’s the owner of A-1 Bail Bonds in Manhattan. The other is Rusty Wilson, a Manhattan businessman most closely associated with a couple of Aggieville bars, Kite’s and Rusty’s Last Chance.
Mr. Wilson, who says he hasn’t “been directly involved” with the group, nevertheless defends its effort. “Only a few directors in the country are appointed the way we do it.”
Maybe the folks in Riley County are simply more enlightened than people elsewhere.
Mr. Wilson also said, “It’s nothing personal. It’s about transparency.”
If it’s really “about transparency,” then it’s fair to wonder why this matter came to the Riley County Commission’s attention Thursday, the day after a bill was introduced in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. And why the bill had no identified sponsor. One might mistake all this for secrecy.
Also, we wonder why it took a conversation with a staff member of that committee to learn that the bill had been introduced by state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau. She’s not the bill’s sponsor, however. In fact, given that she’s from Sedgwick County, we doubt she cares how the RCPD chief is chosen. The staff member said Sen. Faust-Goudeau, one of the committee’s Democrats, acted on behalf of state Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan, who is not on that committee.
While we’re at it, we wonder why Sen. Hawk, whom we hold in high regard, would go to such trouble to get a bill that he says he doesn’t support introduced in a Senate committee. It would have been more forthright to tell the Citizens Assuring Transparency that he couldn’t in good faith be associated with their proposal or with the stealth involved.