In the article, “Mayors and Chiefs”, one police department experienced a change in police chief seven times within one decade. This issue started when the original police chief was elected mayor, however, had trouble maintaining his position throughout following elections. Every time there was a shift in administration, there as a shift throughout the police department. This shift was contributed to the relationship between the mayor and the chief of police. It was noted, however, that it could be tempting for a new mayor to place informants throughout the department to test the loyalty of the chief of police. In other words, this statement reveals “how tightly the fate of police chiefs is tied to municipal leadership in the mayor’s office” (Caldero, 2015, p. 220). The following discusses the relationship between the mayor and the police chiefs and the issues that come along with that relationship.
Maintaining legitimacy for a police chief requires them to balance their expectations with departmental and municipal constituencies. These constituencies include: city council, the public, business groups, mid-level executives, the media, the mayor, school administrators and school boards, the FBI, police non-union and union labor representation, as well as the courts and the prosecutor’s office. The chief’s primary role is to build external liaisons with these different community groups and individual, especially the mayor (Caldero, 2015, p. 215). The relationships the police chief makes with these groups and individuals can have a direct impact on the police department. Thus, it is important for the police chief to have a positive relationships with these constituencies.

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A police chief’s power is at the hands of city council and the mayor. Furthermore, police chiefs can be easily replaced if a scandal occurs within their organization. Mayors have the ability to replace police chiefs in order to ensure a responsive police department (Caldero, 2015, p. 220). This can cause stress on both the police chief, as well as the entire department. Chief executives gain stress from the entire police organization. In a 1993 study, it was “found that police chiefs’ stress was affected by both organizational and institutional features in their working environment” (p. 210). In regards to institutional stressors, these are stressors in which the chief has little control over. Thus, police are impacted by stress throughout the organization. When something happens within a police department, such as a change in leadership, the entire organization is impacted. This can have devastating consequences on a police department.

The mayor can have input into any issue throughout the police department. This can result in legitimacy issues for the police department. Any incident can lead to a legitimacy issue, which means that the government no longer accepts the way the police department operates. When this happens, sometimes the best thing to do is fire the police chief. Typically, when an incident happens throughout a police department, various groups will start to put pressor on the police department to remove its chief. The end result usually results in the police department being humiliated, and the police chief will either be replaced or fired by another chief who promises to clean the police department up (Caldero, 2015, p. 225). The mayor has more power than the police chief. Why the chief is important to the community, the mayor has the stronger role and is given more community power than the local police chief.

However, there are several issues that should be negotiated between a chief and a mayor. If negotiated prior to a situation, then the police department will be better equip to handle change. These issues consist of: crime control, school integration, media relations, zoning matters, as well as the mayor’s role in the organization and personnel within the police department (Caldero, 2015, p. 220). A police chief is not just a manager of a police department. The police chief is also a citywide policymaker. The decisions made by the police chief are acted out and influenced in the municipal political area. This is the arena where the legitimacy of the police department is worked out. Thus, more should be looked at in regards to legitimacy then just the current circumstance. Departments should do whatever it takes to resolve problems before harming working relationships throughout the municipal system (p. 221).

Overall, mayors and police chiefs have an important working relationship. When things go wrong, however, it seems like the police chief commonly takes the fall. Whether responsible for the problem or not, replacing or firing the police chief seems to be a common ‘go-to’ for mayors in times of trouble. In order to eliminate this issue, the mayor and police chief should have a closure working relationship. Specifics should be negotiated and set by both the police chief and the mayor in order to ensure a properly ran department. Furthermore, problems should be resolved in other manners other than firing or replacing the police chief. Police departments will always have problems. Replacing the chief, however, should not be used as a method of resolving these problems. Switching administration will only lead to more changes within the department. The more frequent the changes, the more issues the police department will have. Thus, in order to maintain a properly working department, it is essential for the mayor and police chief to have a close working relationship in order to decrease the amount of leadership changes that happen within one police department.

  • Caldero, M. (2015). Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause. New York, NY: Routledge.