Jacksonville’s Assistant Police Chief Bill Wineman spent nearly an hour Monday complaining to the city’s Civil Service Board about not being hired for the city’s top law-enforcement position, which came open with the recent retirement of former Chief Tommy Thompson.
Wineman said the new chief, Marcus Wood, doesn’t meet the Civil Service Board’s requirements and that Wood received an unfair advantage from his friendship with Councilman Jimmy Harrell.
According to an article by The Star’s B. Scott Mclendon, the city’s job description calls for candidates to have at least 10 years of law enforcement experience and a four-year college degree, but work experience above the 10-year requirement could be substituted for the degree requirement. Wineman told the board that Wood’s application noted just under 12 years of law enforcement experience with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, and that he hasn’t completed a degree he started at Jacksonville State University.
The Civil Service Board members defended their role in the hiring process, explaining that they considered Wood’s 12 years with the sheriff’s office plus his two years of coursework at JSU as satisfying the requirements.
Pat Borstorff, the Civil Service Board’s vice chairwoman, said the board examined each candidate’s experience and forwarded to the City Council only those who met the minimum requirements, noting that no names were attached to the resumes when the board examined them.
That means the council only considered candidates deemed qualified by the Civil Service Board, including Wood and Wineman.
In addition to Wood’s 12 years with the sheriff’s office and two years studying at JSU, he also served eight years as a military police officer with the Alabama National Guard. His experience more than meets the requirements to be chief.
Wineman also said Councilman Harrell was a groomsman at Wood’s wedding and described the two as “best friends.” He argued that Harrell should have recused himself from the hiring process.
Here, Wineman has a point. Had Harrell recused himself, it would have removed any notion of impropriety. But, the council voted unanimously to hire Wood. A recusal by Harrell would not have changed the results.
Here’s the real rub: Wineman seems to think he’s entitled to be chief because most of his 35 years in law enforcement have been with the Jacksonville Police Department. But leading a police department is too important of a job to simply hand the keys to whoever’s been there the longest.
Wineman also said Mayor Johnny Smith told him he was the most experienced, most qualified candidate and knew the most about the job, but did poorly on the interview.
Leaders take responsibility for their circumstances. Wineman is choosing to blame others for not being selected, but there’s a reason an interview is part of the process and hires aren’t made solely on the basis of experience.
Wineman also levied a charge that Wood got an advance copy of the interview questions through his connections with Harrell and city administrator Albertha Grant, who attends the same church as Wood. But Wineman offered no evidence of the accusation, which was strongly denied by the others.
The power, authority and responsibility of police chief should not be in the hands of someone who’s willing to make salacious charges against others without evidence.
All of this matters because it’s bigger than a guy who’s bitter about being overlooked for a job promotion. Law enforcement, perhaps more than any other job, requires solidarity and camaraderie and trust. Those men and women put their lives in each others’ hands every time they answer a call. None of them should have to worry about whether the person backing them up wants their job.
Wineman lamented that not getting the chief position prevented a triggering of in-house promotions for other officers in the Jacksonville department. But if he continues to create a hostile workplace by accusing his new boss of being incompetent and undeserving of the job, those in-house promotions might become a reality after all.