That is the word from CEO Burrell Ellis, who has been talking up his first 100 days in office across the county this week.
Responding to questions after his 100-day speech at Leadership DeKalb’s Eggs & Issues Breakfast Wednesday, Ellis said that merit protection for the police chief is an anomaly peculiar to DeKalb County.
“We can’t find another instance throughout the United States where a police chief has that kind of protection,” he said.
Ellis, who took office on Jan. 5, fired former Police Chief Terrell Bolton on Feb. 24.
He said that because the position is merit protected, if he was to appoint a permanent chief now, that person would be in that merit protection.
“That creates a real managerial problem,” he said. “It really does.”
Ellis said that acting Police Chief William O’Brien is doing a fine job but that he thinks merit protection is not appropriate for the position of police chief.
Using the prior chief as an example, Ellis said one of the problems he had coming into office was that Bolton took the attitude that he couldn’t be touched.
“One of the things he very clearly said to me is that, ‘I can’t be touched. I am merited protected,’” Ellis said. “It makes it difficult, to say the very least.”
He said he hopes to put someone in place who doesn’t have that protection.
“I have asked the board to act and when they act, I will do my part,” he said.
Ellis has asked the Board of Commissioners to change the law to remove the police chief’s job from under the county’s Merit System.
The request, which was on the Board of Commission’s May 12 Business Agenda, has not yet made it out of the Public Safety Committee.
District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, who heads that committee and was in attendance at the Eggs & Issues breakfast, said she expects the amendment to come before the full board on June 9.
Ellis also made his 100-day speech to senior citizens at Lou Walker Center on May 11, the Maloof Auditorium on May 12, and Senior Connections in Chamblee and the Historic Courthouse in downtown Decatur on May 14.
He claims success at creating a teamwork approach and fixing problems in the police department.
“Morale was at an all-time low,” he said. “We had to fix that. We had problems with the leadership. We had to fix that. We took action. We put the leadership in the police department.”
Under O’Brien, he says there has been an uplift in morale, a decrease in crime, and appropriate reorganizations of the department.
He said that he has met with groups like labor unions and higher education – which have never been to the county before – and that he and his staff meet regularly with county commissioners.
“We are bringing more groups to the table as we put unity back into the community,” Ellis said.
“We are opening opportunities and giving everybody a fair shake. But government can’t do it alone. Make no mistake. We can’t do it alone. We need your help.”
McKenzie Jackson contributed to this report.