City Manager Jason Gray said he evaluated the performance of Doug Kowalski, the former police chief, for a year and a half, before firing him, in a release issued to the media, including TSB, by the City of McKinney on Tuesday.
Gray also said he named his former deputy city manager, Joe Williams, as the new chief -- not interim chief -- because he wanted him to have full authority to make necessary changes. Gray would not commit to whether Williams will remain as the permanent chief or whether a nationwide search for a permanent successor would take place.
"This is a specific assignment for Chief Williams, and an interim title makes that more difficult," Gray said. "There is no specific schedule or time line for replacing Joe Williams as Chief. It will depend on how long this specific assignment takes and how we are able to facilitate the changes in culture."
As for Kowalski's firing, Gray said he fired him based on "how the department was operating and how those operations could be improved for the benefit of our citizens.”
Citizens have been divided and taken to the media, including Town Square Buzz, with a flurry in the past week debating the merits of Gray's actions and Kowalski's career in McKinney.
Efforts by TSB to interview Gray since the firing Oct. 5 have been denied. Gray also pulled out of a previous commitment to speak at a TSB-hosted Town Hall event later this month.
TSB has printed the entire release below:
Tusday, Oct. 16-FROM THE CITY OF MCKINNEY: McKinney City Manager Explains Decision to Name Joe Williams Police Chief and Path Forward for the McKinney Police Department
McKinney City Manager Jason Gray says he will assess the need for a nationwide search for a police chief after former deputy city manager Joe Williams has had a full opportunity to make necessary changes in the department. Gray said Williams will be given the time and authority needed to make the changes and provided no specific time line for his decision.
“The decision to replace a long-serving and well respected chief of police is not something that I take lightly,” said Gray. “It was not due to a specific incident but rather to my evaluation, over a one and a half year period, of how the department was operating and how those operations could be improved for the benefit of our citizens.”
According to Gray, his concerns centered on several important issues including communications difficulties between the department and city manager’s office on important issues, lack of consistency and accountability in disciplinary procedures, and serious issues with supervision.
“My decision to ask Joe Williams to step into the role of chief is based on the need to begin immediately working directly with leadership of the department to implement changes necessary to avoid problems in the future and allow the department to better serve our community.”
“I believe these issues are serious enough that it would be wrong to leave the department without a chief during the period it would take to conduct a thorough national search. I have great respect for Chief Williams’ philosophy of policing a community and believe that it is well aligned with the culture of McKinney. Chief Williams is a servant leader, and I know that he will use his approximately 20 years of law enforcement experience to continue to serve this community with the utmost of integrity and to the benefit of our citizens. Chief Williams has shown himself to be a highly skilled, fair and consistent leader over a long career in both law enforcement and as deputy city manager.”
“Clearly it would have been easier and less controversial to simply leave things as they were, but that would not be fulfilling my responsibilities as city manager,” said Gray. “I will continue to keep the City Council fully informed as this process moves forward.”
“Our citizens can rest assured that the hundreds of professionals in our police department remain dedicated to serving and protecting our community at the highest level.”
Q&A WITH GRAY
Did you fire Chief Kowalski via YouTube?
No. We discussed his reassignment in person. The YouTube video contained the same language that would have been contained in a memo. It was posted so that officers on all shifts could have the information at the same time with absolute consistency. It was sent out from me directly to employees in the department only after I had a personal conversation with Chief Kowalski.
Why did you feel it necessary to name Joe Williams as Chief rather than interim Chief? I want people to understand that Joe Williams has the full authority and will have the time in office to lead the changes necessary in the department. This is a specific assignment for Chief Williams, and an interim title makes that more difficult. There is no specific schedule or time line for replacing Joe Williams as Chief. It will depend on how long this specific assignment takes and how we are able to facilitate the changes in culture.
There are fundamental changes that require a different management and policing philosophy than the one I have been observing. I am responsible to provide the best results and the most effective public safety possible for this community, and I believe that these changes continually move us in that direction.
Why not say now whether you will conduct a nationwide search for a new chief?
I do not want to undermine Chief William’s authority by making it appear he is an interim appointment. He will be given the time needed to make changes in the department with no pre-determined time limit.
Does this mean Williams could remain as chief after the changes are made?
I am taking this one step at a time and do not want to pre-judge what the situation will be after the changes are made.
Photos: Top left, Jason Gray; Above, right, Doug Kowalski.