As recently reported in the Commercial, the Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution instructing Mayor Carl Redus Jr. to research the cost of hiring a consultant to evaluate the police department's management practices and policies. While remaining cognizant of our budgetary constraints, we must do something to correct the dysfunctional course set by the present police administration.

As recently reported in the Commercial, the Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution instructing Mayor Carl Redus Jr. to research the cost of hiring a consultant to evaluate the police departmentís management practices and policies. While remaining cognizant of our budgetary constraints, we must do something to correct the dysfunctional course set by the present police administration.

Sadly, this day has been a long-time coming. For several years, preceding the current term of Chief Brenda Davis-Jones, the department has been embroiled in one quagmire after another. With mounting public concerns over rumored attrition, flagging morale and mounting disciplinary issues, the agency clearly needs the perspective of outside experts.

Arguably, the administration has brought this on themselves. With the benefit of several hand-picked individuals throughout the command staff, any troubles that persist may now be assigned to those presently in charge. It is a normal part of bureaucratic transition that changes in leadership beget changes in policies and practice. We expect as much, but the newness has long-since worn off and the changes appear to have borne little fruit. It is clear that other, more constructive changes, must now be made. A good place to start is in the selection and retention of a qualified and wholly neutral consultant to provide an appraisal of the situation.

Fortunately, there are countless firms that specialize in the study of police management practices. We hope that the mayor will use this opportunity to select a consultant with sufficient expertise and perspective to provide a frank assessment of things.

We have said it dozens of times, but it bears repeating until the city council listens: Disbanding the Civil Service Commission was a terrible idea. The mechanism that took its place is too amenable to administrative whim and manipulation. It concentrates too much power into too few hands with almost no checks on the power.

Every single disciplinary issue now confronting the department could have been settled through the former civil service commission. Instead, we have a growing certainty of expensive civil suits and administrative credibility that has taken a beating.

As a general construct, this administration has developed some very poor management habits. Promotions are made under the cloud of possibly tainted examinations. Discipline appears mercurial and uneven. Morale canít help but suffer. All the while, we have a violent crime rate well above national averages, a systemically ensconced drug problem and an apparent abdication of administrative responsibilities.

If nothing else, the unseemly exchanges purported to have taken place between recently re-instated Assistant Chief Ivan Whitfield and Davis-Jones are revealing. Moreover, the city councilís overturn Davis-Jonesí firing of Whitfield could be interpreted as a vote of no confidence.

In turn, situations like this make it difficult for the public to have faith in police leadership. Likewise, it detracts from the efforts of the hardworking men and women who serve under this cloud. Of all the shame in this, poor leadership that undermines the line officers is perhaps the greatest.

We have a dedicated group of officers, who labor tirelessly and under very demanding conditions. They are compensated inadequately and underappreciated. If nothing else, it is disrespectful of them to expect superior service when their commanders are not held to the same standards. This must change.

While nobody likes having to bring in outsiders to clean up their mess, this is one instance when itís unavoidable. We need that consultant and we need them here yesterday.