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Mayor, Council Have Their Work Cut Out For Them

How Jamestown officials move to fill the void left by the retirement of Harry Snellings, longtime city police chief and public safety director, will speak volumes about how Mayor Eddie Sundquist and members of the City Council view the police department’s role in the community.

Seven of the council’s nine members told The Post-Journal last week they want to see someone similar to Snellings appointed to the position. All seven of the members who responded to our inquiries noted Snellings’ community involvement and quick response to questions from the council and the community. Many mentioned specifically the discipline with which he ran the department.

There is no timetable to fill the position, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Gov. Andrew Cuomo decreed over the weekend that cities that don’t enact reforms in their police department by April 1 of next year could lose all of their state funding. Of course, Cuomo’s directive came with precious little guidance as to what exactly he expects to see done by local governments.

The reform process, whatever it is the governor expects, would have been a better one in Jamestown is Snellings was part of it. He had said, publicly, that he welcomed a public conversation about the Jamestown Police Department’s policies and tactics and the chief’s demeanor during recent demonstrations in the city indicates the reform discussions would likely have been productive ones for city residents and the Jamestown Police Department.

Sundquist’s desk is likely to be flooded with resumes for candidates looking to replace Snellings. But, in our view, perhaps the most important thing Snellings brought to the job — his calm public demeanor in stressful situations– won’t be found on a resume.

The mayor and the council have their work cut out for them.

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