Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crime and Politics in the Bay State

Just two weeks into the New Year, Bay State residents were horrified to hear the news that a 13-year-old boy, on his way to choir practice in Roxbury, was shot in the stomach.

Governor Deval Patrick and other leaders decried the violence and said they would address it with action. That's why it was so disappointing to hear about Patrick's latest initiatives in today's papers.

At the same time the Governor is pushing for tougher rules on the purchase of firearms in Massachusetts, he is also appointing Steve Tompkins, a former public relations official in state government who has no experience as a police officer or corrections officer, to manage the largest county correctional system in the state (taking the place of former Sheriff Andrea Cabral, who recently left her post to join Patrick's cabinet).

"It's a political job," said the Governor, "so the folks that are criticizing it as a political hire, tell them they're right."

We're not sure what's more brazen, making the appointment in the first place or coming right out and admitting the political nature of it in public. It's as if he's daring his political opponents to challenge him -- knowing, full well, that the only thing weaker than his rationale for making the appointment is the barely-audible chorus of opposition he's likely to hear questioning his moves in this true-blue state. It also strikes us as incredibly hypocritical to be talking about tougher gun laws one day and filling one of the state's top law enforcement jobs with a political appointment the next.

Somebody needs to stand up and remind the Governor that the reason why there is an interim Sheriff in the first place is because there is important public safety work to be done by the county's top correctional official. For the next two years, the work of superintending some of the city's worst felons will be done by someone whose specialty is government and public relations. If Patrick is treating it as such a throw-away job, why do we need it in the first place?

If the Governor wants us to believe he's serious about doing something to crack down on crime and violence, then he will have to try harder to come up with solutions we can take seriously. This appointment fails the test. It makes no sense, and it's result of a political calculation instead of anything that has to do with public safety.

We're tired of seeing these "interim appointments" doled out as if they are gifts to friends, even when they deal with sensitive areas like public safety. The same applies to the expected vacancy in the U.S. Senate to be left open if/when Senator Kerry is appointed to serve as Secretary of State.

Somebody needs to remind Governor Patrick that the only political hires that should be made in this state are by the voters at the ballot box.

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