Graduation from Harvard

Atlanta’s top cop is likely on her way out. So who’s on their way in?

In the nearly eight years that Beverly Harvard has been Atlanta’s top cop, police have seen their ranks shrink, morale plummet and, until last year, their pension programs and salaries stagnate.

Rank and file cops grumble about her lack of leadership, but at the same time, most acknowledge she was hamstrung under former Mayor Bill Campbell. In fact, just after Shirley Franklin was elected mayor, many local politicos openly wondered whether Harvard would finally get the chance to be the chief they thought she could be.

We’ll probably never know. Harvard’s days as police chief appear to be numbered. She hasn’t re-applied for her job, and she’s mum on whether she will — not exactly the sign of someone itching to show this town what she’s capable of.

It’s just as well probably. At this point, she’d have to engineer a Giuliani-esque turnaround to convince the rank and file — and Franklin — that she’s capable of getting the department out of its years-long funk, an extraordinarily difficult task during especially lean times for the city.

And really, that points to just what kind of top cop Atlanta needs. The new chief will have to turn around morale under a budget with raises frozen and new equipment purchases put on hold. The person who is appointed chief will have to win the faith of the troops or risk depleting a department that is arguably already undermanned.

Still, there’s no shortage of would-be successors. Five weeks after the Franklin administration began accepting names for consideration, “we’ve been in contact with over 100 people,” says Sam Pettway, whose firm, Spencer Stuart Executive Research, is conducting the search free for the city. Among those hundred are people being contacted solely for their advice — a group that reportedly includes the local heads of the Secret Service and FBI — and others who are candidates. A few, Pettway says, fit into both categories.

While Pettway won’t divulge who the search team has spoken to, a few names have emerged.

Officer Richard Straut, an Atlanta cop and president of the local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, was one of the officers consulted for advice, along with PBA Georgia President E.T. “Bud” Watson. Straut says he spent an hour-and-a-half on the phone with a member of the search team telling her, among other things, that Atlanta needs to find someone who can simply get the department accredited with the state.

Straut says he recommended that retired Atlanta Police Maj. Johnny Prince be considered for the job.

“He has a law degree and he knows everybody in the state,” Straut says of Prince. He admits, though, that he doesn’t even know if Prince would be interested. Prince could not be reached for comment.

Wayne Mock, a retired major and current head of the Central Atlanta Progress Ambassadors Force program, is another name floated by the search team. The 57-year-old Mock, though, says he has not applied for the job and has been only informally contacted by the search committee. Like Straut, Mock says the people from Spencer Stuart wanted to find out about what qualities he thought the new chief should possess.

Capt. Louis Arcangeli’s name also has come up, which might say just how far things have come in the transition from Campbell to Franklin. Under Campbell and Harvard, Arcangeli became a pariah. In 1997, the then-deputy chief challenged the department’s underreporting of serious crimes. For his trouble, Arcangeli was demoted in May 1998 to captain and currently works in records.

Arcangeli would not comment publicly about whether he has been interviewed by the search committee.

Whoever gets picked, he or she will inherit a force whose collective morale has taken a few too many shots to the gut. There are scores of vacant jobs in the APD (although Franklin’s budget would trim 254 of those positions). A lousy retirement and benefits plan has made retention and recruitment major headaches for the department. For years, Campbell promised to get 2,000 cops on Atlanta streets, but it never happened. The Atlanta Police Department currently numbers about 1,600.

Salaries also are an issue. During Campbell’s two terms, cops saw their raises frozen twice. One year, their raise was a measly 1 percent, not even enough to keep up with inflation. Add to that a proposed budget that freezes raises for 2002. It’s another disincentive to stick with the force, Straut says. Meanwhile, he adds, many cops are driving around with cars like his, a 1992 Taurus with 187,000 miles on it.

He adds that there are at least two cops who had raises that commenced in late December 2001 who had those raises removed from their 2002 paychecks, effectively denying them salary increases for two years.

“I understand that the city is in dire straits and it’s freezing increments for this year but not last year,” Straut says. The union will file a grievance on their behalf.

As for Pettway, he says he expects the search to be completed and the names of five finalists given to Franklin before the end of March deadline. The search team has gone to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Police Executive Research Forum to look for candidates and has queried a long list of people with a “vested interest in the state of law enforcement in the city of Atlanta.”