Outgoing Selah Police Chief Rick Hayes’ recent email to Mayor Sherry Raymond fired a final warning shot to end his career of service to Selah. His email to Selah's mayor makes it clear Selah residents will soon face a choice between two paths.
Hayes makes five claims in his email that should concern every Selah resident.
#1: Hayes says he left his position earlier than planned because of disagreements with the city administrator.
#2: Hayes gives the reason he left early: “I felt he was using the police department as a tool in this conflict over chalk art…”
#3: Hayes claims the mayor knew the real reason he was leaving, but the city and the city administrator misrepresented his reasons to the public: “I spoke with you on July 31, 2020 and told you that because of Mr. Wayman, I was retiring one year and 2 months earlier than I had planned. I told you that he micromanages to the point I no longer felt like I was an effective leader within the police department.”
#4: Hayes claims a succession plan was in place at Selah PD, but city decision makers ignored it: “The recruitment of my replacement is being steam rolled forward at a pace that is going to be disastrous. Is 30 minutes enough time to really decide who is appropriate for this job? Why isn't the city's Human Resource Director involved in this process?”
#5: Hayes suggests the city administrator is unhappy with current officers in the Selah PD: “ I was told by both Mr. Wayman and Mr. Case that the police department were a bunch of malcontents."
Most of us who have worked in large organizations have seen this movie before. The plot goes something like this: The organization hits a crisis. The head honchos begin demonizing people who are pointing out the problems causing the crisis. The head honchos decide these “malcontents” need to be replaced with handpicked "better" people who will support the head honchos.
But the movie always ends the same: new faces, same problems. The crisis continues because the real problems haven't been fixed.
New outside cops may be hired to replace current Selah officers who leave because of the low morale cited by Chief Hayes. But the problem remains.
So when the head honchos can move chalk art and equality protests to the front burner again, we still have conflict. Some new cops may follow the unconstitutional orders, while current good cops may refuse. The Teamsters Local 760, representing both the old and new Selah officers, will have to act. They've already made it clear where they stand on the Constitutional and contractual issues involved. The union will continue to oppose the head honchos effort to use the Selah PD as "a tool in the conflict over chalk art..."
Local 760 may not be able to get the attention of the honchos who handpicked the new cops, but they can pick up the phone and call in the national union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Selah’s legal budget (actually, Selah’s entire budget) is no match for the 1.2 million member IBT.
This Teamsters versus head honcho confrontation brings us to the first path that Selah can take.
If law-abiding Selah citizens support the Teamsters and the remaining good police officers, a larger confrontation can be avoided. The Teamsters may have to sue (don’t worry, it’s in their budget and they are really good at it) but they will win and this chapter of The Selah Story ends peacefully.
Real law-and-order is re-established - the real constitutional-level stuff, not ridiculous threats to prosecute chalk artists for criminal destruction of property.
The second path - a violent one - is a very real possibility if Selah residents don’t stand up against this power play. It’s a few years until any election that could fundamentally change the power structure in Selah. (Recalls are a messy and unsure option.)
Residents who oppose gutting the Selah PD need allies right now. The head honchos believe they have solid support for this power play, or they wouldn’t be so quick to try to suppress Constitutional rights. (Selah's history will note the irony that some of the folks who attended Selah's recent "Back the Blue" rally will be among those supporting the head honchos' gutting of the police department.) Teamsters offer opponents of this gutting strategy some serious clout, protected by federal labor laws.
If the head honchos run off all the good officers and replace them with handpicked big city cops who will do their bidding, the chalk art and protests will not go quietly into the night. A very real possibility for violence exists when supporters of the head honchos collide with supporters of equal rights under the Constitution.
Pretty much the same scenario played out in a small town in Oregon just last week, and they are occurring regularly across the country now. If you want Selah to join that list, do nothing.
If Rick Hayes is right, Selah’s current leadership is doubling down on its goal of erasing (literally and figuratively) the chalk art protests and all they stand for, even if that means tearing apart the police department and rebuilding it to be a malleable “tool in the conflict over chalk art.”
Federal civil rights lawsuits sit at the end of that path. And lots more national publicity for Selah.
The honchos seem to be making it clear they intend to stir the chalk art controversy again. Consider the last two lines of the Herald-Republic article linked above:
That sounds like somebody who still doesn't believe Selah's original actions were unconstitutional. Time will prove him wrong.
Selah, please stare down this threat to your town’s peace by siding with the Teamsters and supporting your local police before they are replaced. If you remain silent, the folks with twitchy trigger fingers will support your head honcho and land all of you in federal court.