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OPINION:  Searching for a Meriden police chief in 2020

OPINION:  Searching for a Meriden police chief in 2020

The new year is just around the corner — just a few short days, this being winter, away — and already 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for Meriden.

There is, for example, the burning question: We know it will be neither shack nor palace, but precisely what flavor of banquet facility for the golf course are we going to end up with? Always to fall back against is the question of whether the city ought to be in the business of running golf courses — or airports — but my take is these are major amenities that, like Castle Craig, we identify with Meriden, and in a positive way. It would be good if 2020 were a year that identified with the positive.

There are also big things coming at the Hub — I mean, the Green — where the city, let’s face it, has banked its fortunes. The city just made it encouraging to set up brewpubs and the like there, and while I don’t know if beer is the answer, I also don’t know that it isn’t. We need a snowball to build a snowman — something like that.

Were it the only issue of the year, the quest to find a new police chief would make 2020 a most important one. There are few more influential decisions a municipality can make, and let’s be honest about this, Meriden’s track record over the decades has been … sketchy.

There’s an undercurrent of grumbling in any municipality, but in Meriden you can almost see it as a specialty, and you can feel it when it comes to this important decision. Why not just promote from within and save yourself a lot of trouble, or something other than whatever it is you are doing?

I will pause for a moment to observe that Chief Jeffry Cossette, a home-spun leader, provided stability to a department at a time when the city was in dire need of it. But there have been troubles, which I won’t get into, except the one about eliminating the neighborhood initiative and cops in schools (they’re called resource officers — a meaningless obfuscation) as a response to budget cuts. This caused needless hand-wringing at a time when people’s hands were already wringing off because of a budget referendum that revealed lack of confidence overall in city leadership.

The move came across as mean-spirited, and perhaps that should become an item on the police chief candidate checklist: If your budget is trimmed, will you be mean about it?

A lot of to-do could be avoided if you could just steal Chief William Wright from Wallingford. He knows the area, for one. But that would not likely come across as neighborly. You could, however, take the commitment to transparency, which definitely needs to be on a candidate checklist — and a renewed interest in a Citizens Police Academy in Meriden.

These kinds of things don’t often get a lot of attention. Did you know, for example, that in the USA we now have the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and … Space Force? We do.

President Donald Trump signed it into existence just a few days ago (imagine being able to sign something into existence …). It’s the first military branch since the Air Force, which was put into being in 1947. It’s OK if you missed it. The president was busy being impeached (and still is, as far as I can figure) and there were presents to wrap, but there it is.

It’s still so early days there isn’t even a logo, I don’t think, or a uniform. There’s reason to hope there will be terminology better than something like “space cadet,” which may have unintended connotations considering what for some was the nation’s psychedelic era.

In any case, a police academy, or something that continues the effort to bring citizens together with those committed to serve and protect, would be a good way to begin a new year and a new decade.

Let’s hear it for 2020.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or