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Some object to choice for police chief



Published: Sat, April 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The head of a minority coalition said the mayor ignored their recommendation.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

and ROGER G. SMITH

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

YOUNGSTOWN -- Although many from within say the city's first minority police chief will keep the department moving forward, some in the black community say he isn't the best choice for the job.

Robert Bush Jr., 54, was appointed police chief Friday. Mayor George M. McKelvey cited Bush's experience as a city police officer, prosecutor and law director.

Bush replaces Chief Richard Lewis, who retired Friday after 38 years with the department.

McKelvey also appointed John McNally IV, 32, to replace Bush as law director. McNally has been an assistant law director since 1998.

Happy with choice: Bush's appointment earned cheers from many inside the police department.

"Bob Bush has the experience of being a former police officer here. He's worked the street. He knows what it takes to get things done," Lewis said. "... I can see the department going forward under his direction."

Capt. Robert Kane, chief of the detective division, said he and Bush started working on the force the same day.

"He was my first partner and I have all the respect in the world for him and I'm sure he'll do an outstanding job," Kane said.

As fiscal officer in the department's budget division, Detective Bill Blanchard worked closely with Lewis.

"I think it's going to be a smooth transition. I think, by and large, Bob Bush has a lot of respect for people in the department, mainly because he has been here before and has had a career largely tied into law enforcement," Blanchard said.

Besides Bush, others said to be interviewed by the mayor included Capt. Jimmy Hughes, Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin Casey, who heads the crisis intervention unit, and Ted Terlesky, Youngstown schools security chief and a former city officer.

Casey, who is black, said she was not surprised by Bush's appointment. She felt all along that he was the political favorite. She is pleased to see a black appointed.

"I'm happy for Bush and to be part of history to see an African-American chief," she said. "I hope I'm around long enough to see history again when a woman is selected."

Casey said she hopes the appointment of a minority chief will help drive out a "them-against-us mentality" in the community.

"I think it will bring the police closer to the community," she said. " ... Race relations is still a big issue police have to deal with, so this comes at a good time."

Favored Hughes: Casey said that she was honored to be among those considered but that she felt Hughes, who also is black, was the most qualified, based on his local and national credentials.

Although Bush is a minority, the most qualified black candidate didn't get the job, said the Rev. Kenneth Simon.

The pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and head of the Community Mobilization Committee had harsh words for the selection. He called the decision political, made to appease the black community and not in the best interests of the city.

The committee is made up of about 10 organizations around the city that involve minorities. The Rev. Mr. Simon said the mayor informally asked the group for its input, and the members strongly and unanimously endorsed Hughes.

Hughes' qualifications far exceeded those of the others, he said.

"The minority community spoke with one voice. There was no division. There was one unified voice spoken to the mayor," he said. "Politics has prevailed and not the most qualified candidate has been selected."

Feel they were ignored: Bush will do a capable job, Mr. Simon said, but he added he was disappointed the mayor chose to ignore the group's strong recommendation of Hughes. Instead, the mayor based his choice on who he could better control, not the most qualified, Mr. Simon said.

He called the choice a slap in the face to the black community.

"I think it was a done deal six months ago. It speaks to the system that politics prevails," Mr. Simon said. "Somehow, the system has to change."

Steven Mickel, who was part of the group, also agreed that Hughes outshone any other candidate.

"Sentiments in the community are the same," he said.

Mickel said that Bush has done a good job as law director and that he is disappointed to see him leave the office.

Hughes declined to comment.

Mayor's response: Race was not a factor in the decision, and the pick was not meant to send any message to anybody in the city, McKelvey said.

"I appointed the police chief for all the residents of Youngstown," he said.

McKelvey said he interviewed many candidates. He declined to confirm who or how many. All -- including Hughes -- would have made a good chief, he said.

"When you make difficult decisions you can't make them based on a popularity contest," he said.

McKelvey said he has nothing to gain politically with any appointment since he is a lame-duck mayor. Bush's having worked with the mayor the past four years was one advantage he had over all the other candidates, he said.

Mr. Simon is entitled to his opinion, McKelvey said.

"I'm saddened that Rev. Simon would question my motives and my heart," McKelvey said. "I would never question his motives or his heart in administering his church."

Another view: The Rev. Alfred Coward of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church said he understands the views of the black organizations. But the Rev. Mr. Coward, who also is chairman of the Mayor's Task Force on Crime and Violence Prevention, said he considers Bush a man of integrity who should make a fine police chief.

"He knows the job. I think he'll do a good job," Mr. Coward said.

The appointment of a minority is a step ahead for the city, he said.

"I just believe to get our city going on the right track, we can't be fighting one another," Mr. Coward said.




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