I was pleased to read that North Myrtle Beach has created the position of chief of police. The creation of this position was long overdue. The appointment of Rick Buddlemeyer as the chief of police was a positive step. He is a very professional and competent police leader. If given the authority to match his title he will move the police department forward. I do not question the qualifications of the new public safety director. However, is it a mere coincidence that the best qualified out of more than 400 applicants just happens to be a friend and former co-worker of the city manager? I do seriously question the need for this position. The money spent maintaining this position could be better spent hiring more personnel to help offset the cost of separating the police and fire departments.
The city now has a very competent fire chief and police chief. What is the job description of the chief of police and the director of public safety? Is the chief of police going to be chief in fact or in name only? As in the past, is the director going to continue to run the Police Department? Since the implementation of the public safety concept, every director has considered himself to be, in fact, the chief of police. Since every director has been appointed from a police background, his main interest has been the Police Department and as director ran every aspect of the police activities. This was true when I was the fire chief and has continued to be true.
Is the new chief of police going to have the authority to actually run the operation of the Police Department? Is he going to have the authority to implement the changes, within the department, that are needed to resolve the problems that now exist? Are there clear lines of authority between of police chief and the director? It is my opinion that the position of director of public safety has become superfluous. Let's look at the proposed chain of command. The police and fire chiefs will report to the director, the director reports to the assistant city manager, who in turn answers to the city manager. Does this sound like an efficient method to run a major city department? By eliminating the director position, the fire and police chiefs should report directly to the city manager.
The city had an opportunity to take a major step in the separation of the police and fire departments, as recommended by its own consultant and by its own personnel. Are they wasting taxpayers' money by duplicating the job descriptions of the chiefs and director? I hope that this newly created position of chief of police was not just a title given to Rick as an award for his service as interim director. We do not need a director of public safety.
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The writer, a retired fire chief of the North Myrtle Beach Fire Department, lives in Little River.