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Our View: A lesson from law enforcement

Our View

Following the Feb. 1 announcement that Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Roosevelt Johnson has been promoted to commander, the Sheriff’s Department has begun its replacement process for Santa Clarita’s contract city captain.

Such captains are, in effect, their cities’ chiefs of police.

We’ve seen the changing of the guard before. Because Santa Clarita contracts for law enforcement with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, that department hands city officials and others within the station’s patrol area a short list of department members it considers good choices for the job.

After members of those groups and organizations – including City Council members, the city manager and others – get a chance to interview the candidates, they recommend their choices to the Sheriff’s Department.

It’s the sheriff himself or herself who makes the final decision.

We’ve watched this process work several times in recent years, producing Capt. Paul Becker to replace newly-promoted Cmdr. Anthony LaBerge in 2010, and Johnson, now Cmdr. Johnson, taking the position in 2014 to replace then-retiring Capt. Becker.

The choice for Johnson’s replacement is still being decided. The city plans to make its recommendation late next week.

We believe this transparent method of marrying a city with its new police chief through multiple meetings, greetings and interviews with the candidates is a wise one. After all, the new captain will be Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sworn personnel – no getting around that.

No doubt the sheriff could simplify things by telling Santa Clarita: “This is your new captain.”

But we suspect providing choices, however limited, and a feeling of empowerment on the community’s part likely makes things much more successful.

In fact, the Santa Clarita City Council might consider adopting a variation of the Sheriff’s Department’s method when next it wants to select a new council member while avoiding an election.

On Jan. 27, The Signal called for the council to draw up such a policy to avoid the closed-door – or perceived closed-door – method it used to replace Dante Acosta in January after he was elected to the state Assembly.

Rather than creating any role for the community in the process of choosing a new council member, the council accepted applications for the job with minimal qualification demands, granted three-minute interviews to most applicants during a single night, and then selected the new council member while explaining why background searches were not its responsibility.

Perfunctory – that’s a kind word to describe how the selection was made.

“Fixed” is another word we’ve heard to describe it.

We wonder how the council members would react if the Sheriff’s Department told them they had three minutes each to ask questions of the sheriff’s captain candidates.

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