Friday afternoons in summertime are the traditional dumping ground for the type of news politicians and other leaders want to see disappear by Monday, so one can only surmise that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz was not expecting a positive reaction to his decision to appoint acting county police chief Andy Penn to the job full-time, something announced at the very tail end of last work week.
Penn has been filling the job on an interim basis since former chief Jay Farr threw in the towel and retired last fall, one in a growing line of local chiefs who either have given up or been ousted as they find themselves besieged and unable to do their jobs responsibly and effectively. And despite Schwartz’s announced intentions of casting a net far and wide in the search for a new chief, he ended up, to borrow from the lyrics of a 1970s pop song, right back where he started from.
It’s not a bad choice, from our perspective at least, but one does have to ask: Was the fix in from the start, or was this a case of failing to attract outside applicants who wanted the job? (We wondered the same thing in the search, last year, for a new superintendent of schools; there, a nationwide search turned up an selection from just over the border in Fairfax County. The jury remains in deliberations on how that choice has panned out.)
We wish Penn, and the police rank-and-file, well as things move forward. Alas for them and for all of us, we live in a time where a small but vocal group of self-professed “reformers” has managed to vilify the entire profession owing to the sins of a relatively few officers nationally.
What a world. “Strange days, indeed; most peculiar.” John Lennon said it decades ago, and it still rings true in 2021.
Thus far, Arlington has managed to avoid the problems afflicting many “woke” urban areas and their failed-before-and-will-fail-again approach to public safety. But spillover is sure to happen. Buckle up.