In the fall, during the 11.6.13 Whitewater’s Police and Fire Commission meeting, the PFC’s chairperson introduced a draft code of ethics and drafts of procedures for complaints and interviewing candidates for employment or promotion.
I wrote about that meeting afterward, because the drafts were poorly written, and in the case of the procedures for complaints often ill-considered and seemingly slapdash in design. See, following that meeting, Policies for the Police and Fire Commission.
With a week to consider the poor-quality drafts, and the opportunity to make much-needed corrections, what did the Police and Fire Commission do when it reconvened on 11.14.13?
Four of the five members considered an oath, a commissioner’s code of ethics, procedures for a complaint process, and for a hiring process (one left early for another commitment).
If all commissioners cannot attend, on significant issues, then the meeting should be postponed. If that’s too hard, commissioners with conflicts should quit the PFC, thereby affording themselves more time for those other matters of greater interest.
Watch the video, if you’d like, beginning at 1:21 in the recording, and be embarrassed:
There are (1) mistakes even in the draft for final review, (2) it’s obvious that some members of the commission have not reviewed the documents beforehand, (3) the commission chairperson, Jan Bilgen, isn’t even sure if existing commissioners will have to take the new commissioner’s oath the PFC has just approved, and (4) that same chairperson has to wait for someone to reprint new copies of the documents that were meant for final review, as she notices during the meeting that they’re incorrectly formatted.
The topics that the commissioners discuss at more than a few words – of all the issues of oath, ethics, complaints and hiring processes – are remarking on typos they’ve not noticed before, wondering about the time interviews might take (laughably struggling over what ‘as soon as possible’ means, pondering if that’s one day or perhaps – wait for it – two days’ time), or asking for definitions at the meeting that they should have researched beforehand.
There is one exception – beginning at about 18:51 into the video they address complaints against command staff, and later appeal rights to Common Council, and it’s obvious that even the draftswoman of the process doesn’t understand her draft or the issues involved.
These processes should have been read well in advance, rather than at the last moment, during the meeting itself. If that’s the best one can do, one’s ill-serving this community. There’s no honorable service from sloth.
Small wonder that PFC chairperson Bilgen once argued against televised PFC meetings – she’s out of her depth, often unsure, guessing about what might happen, occasionally laughing nervously as the commission stumbles along.
Whitewater’s police leadership needs all the competent oversight it can get, but it’s an understatement to say it’s not getting it from this PFC.