Is a stormy chapter in the life of the Champaign Police Department coming to an end?
Champaign's next police chief will have his hands full after taking office in March.
He (or she) will face suspicion, dissension, division and resentment, and that's just among the police officers under his command.
With any luck, City Manager Steve Carter has laid the groundwork for improvements in the department's atmosphere with the report and recommendations he released following an internal squabble over a promotional examination for aspiring lieutenants and charges of unfairness by department commanders. But there are no guarantees.
Carter ordered an investigation after an anonymous e-mail, which later became public, alleged improprieties in the handling of a promotional examination for sergeants hoping to win jobs as a lieutenant.
Carter concluded that "there is no indication of any wrongdoing with respect to the exam." But he cited other failures, particularly in internal communications, that created an information vacuum that was filled by rumor and speculation.
Carter also announced modifications of future testing to make promotions less subjective and indicated he'll step up communications with department employees to help ease the distrust that "has developed among employees; which is impacting the department in many ways."
"The goals for the new police chief will include the expectation ... to rebuild trust, assure effective decision-making and promote a culture of fair, open and honest communication," Carter said in his report.
Unfortunately, what's done is done. Just as you can't un-ring a bell, there will be no undoing the obvious bitterness surrounding this issue.
So the question is whether the department's officers — from the rookies to those at the top of the heap — have it in them to set aside their hard feelings and look forward, not back.
That can be a hard thing to do. But it would not just be best for the department and the city it serves, but also for the aggrieved individuals themselves. The longer hard feelings linger, the worse for everyone. Police work is tough enough without carrying extra baggage around.
City Manager Carter has made a good first step with his plan for opening up communications, starting with the four candidates vying to succeed retiring Police Chief R.T. Finney.
Carter has announced that chief candidates will not only meet privately with city council members and members of the city's search committee, but also attend a public meeting where everyone will have a chance to take a look.
Chief Finney made his surprise retirement announcement in the midst of all this excitement, and it's hard to believe that one event isn't related in some way to the others.
Whether it is related or not, the good news is that a new chief uninvolved in past controversies will be on board to lead the department forward in a spirit of professionalism and cooperation.