The Ocean City Mayor and Council decided this week to give each of the three current captains of the Ocean City Police Department stints at the helm of the force while the city searches for Chief Bernadette DiPino’s replacement.
The idea behind the move was to maintain a level playing field for the individuals likely to be considered the internal front-runners to succeed DiPino. However, we understand there are other lower ranking members of the OCPD planning to apply for the job as well, and it’s not unprecedented for the city to hire within the department and not pick by rank or seniority. Look no further than DiPino for proof of that. She was a lieutenant with the department prior to becoming chief, leapfrogging at least two captains who had applied for the job back in 2002.
While we believe the council is keeping an open mind during this search process, this week’s decision makes it clear to us the next chief will come from outside the city. We don’t think the council has made that conclusion yet, but this move seems to indicate that’s going to happen.
The three captains are each going to get 45 days at the helm of the department and acting as chief. That’s all well and good, but it’s not going to tell the city or the OCPD staff anything about how they individually would operate as chief. It’s too short of a period and depending what happens during their short reigns atop the department could actually turn out to be unfair.
Considering the unknown nature of providing peace and order, there could be an incident that takes place under one of the interim chief’s tenure that calls for major decisions and more of the limelight. For instance, if a major crime occurs in March, that interim chief’s decision making abilities and composure under pressure will be realized and heavily values, while the interim chief who presides over the quiet holiday season will most likely not have his mettle tested in the same fashion.
Ocean City is trying to ensure fairness with this week’s decision to give each a hand steering the department, but our guess is it will not tell anything about the individual candidates that could not be known today and could turn out to actually be unfair given circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
If the city moves to hire from within, which we do not think will happen, we don’t see these little test runs as playing any sort of factor in the decision. Therefore, we think it was the wrong direction to go with this process.