Over the past weekend I saw that the Huntersville Police Department (“HPD”) was yet again using town resources to promote a private business – this time, HPD is promoting an Arizona based security company, The Knox Company, that sells rapid entry security boxes (a little safe that holds keys that only fire/police are supposed to be able to access so they don’t have to break your door down in case of an emergency) for the exterior of homes and businesses. The promotion can be found at the bottom of a registration page for an upcoming active shooter training HPD is hosting. I sent an email Saturday morning to the town manager and HPD Chief Bence Hoyle pointing out that HPD is yet again using town resources to promote a private business even after the town manager had emailed a Manager’s Directive to all town employees just two months ago on June 10 (after it was brought to the town manager’s attention that HPD was promoting a local gym and hosting a local CPA at HPD HQ for a seminar) telling all town employees to stop independently promoting private businesses using town resources unless such a promotion/advertisement had been referred to HR first so a bid process or request for proposals could be initiated related to the service or product.
Below is the email response I received from Chief Hoyle at 1:14 AM (yes, AM) Sunday morning.
I authorized it and have advised them to continue. It saves lives by allowing first responders to get into a dwelling faster. We have specific keys to those boxes and when we see those boxes we know how to get in without destroying things. CMPD, Huntersville Fire, and CMS use them as well.
We partner with many vendors to improve lives and yes it is profitable for some Im sure. But we cannot work without our partners and we will continue to do so. We have stopped promoting golf tournaments because you didnt like it even though they were NOT for profit, and we will jump through hoops for partners that may only benefit a few, but when it comes to saving lives we will partner without hesitation. Citizens have a choice to use them or not, but you cannot expect an public private partnership to be one sided. Sue us and let the courts decide but i think it legal, justified, and a good thing for the community.
The chief’s email speaks for itself, but I have a few thoughts.
His response not only makes clear he authorized the promotion of a private company in violation of the town manager’s directive, but that he intends to continue to do so in the future without hesitation when it comes to saving lives. (The chief provides no evidence of any lives in Huntersville being saved by a Knox product or any similar product.) This level of open defiance of a superior’s orders would never be tolerated if a lower ranking HPD officer or subordinate town staff member did the same thing. But, the chief is able to get away with such insubordination because he is an unelected bureaucrat with no fear of being disciplined because of his long-standing relationship with the town manager.
The chief’s citing of other agencies that use this product has nothing to do with his direct violation of the town manager’s directive. I didn’t question the use of this product in my email, I simply pointed out that promoting the product using town resources was wrong. This product is not unique – a quick online search for “commercial key box” brings up numerous other similar products designed by many of the top security brands in the country, many of which are far less expensive than the Knox version, so how did HPD decide to promote this brand over all others? (The models being pushed by HPD are between approx. $250-$320.) I shouldn’t have to point out to the chief that just because other agencies do something, doesn’t mean HPD needs to do it too – if CMPD jumped off an I-77 overpass would HPD jump off an overpass too?? Funny thing, he doesn’t list Cornelius PD as another agency using this product even though he was the chief there for over a decade.
The chief failed to provide any details about who else HPD partners with “to improve lives” and who is it profitable for and how much profit is being made, but this is information the town manager and town board should require the chief provide. Again, I didn’t question the practice of partnerships that work to reduce crime in Huntersville, I questioned the practice of using taxpayer resources to show preferential treatment by actively promoting specific private businesses to the exclusion of all others in violation of the town manager’s directive.
No, chief, HPD didn’t stop using HPD email to promote golf tournaments because I didn’t like it – the practice was stopped for two reasons: a) it was just plain wrong to use town resources to promote a golf tournament that was in no way related to Huntersville or HPD with an entry fee of $175 and no details on where the money goes, and b) the officer responsible for promoting said golf tournaments who is also a member of a NC LLC that runs a weekly cash golf league at Birkdale recently “resigned” from HPD and I’m guessing the rest of your officers have actual police work to keep them busy while on duty instead of sending emails about golf.
New chief, same as the old chief. Still hiding behind “saving lives” as a blanket justification for any action/expenditure without any evidence of any lives being saved by whatever action/expenditure is being pushed. No different than the prior chief using the same justification to waste taxpayer dollars on an armored vehicle that sits in a storage bay all year until it gets brought out for display only at National Night Out and a handful of other public events.
Maybe someone can help explain to me why exactly the town manager had to have this one individual as his chief of police and couldn’t even be bothered to do a national search, much less a regional search, for a new chief? Do the town manager and town board support our chief of police telling a resident asking a reasonable question about a town department openly violating a directive from the town manager to “sue us and let the courts decide?” Apparently so because not a word of protest was uttered by anyone at the dais Monday night even though they were all included on the entire email chain. It’s election season so I expect even less out of our local politicians than usual – it’s much easier to take that $1,000 campaign contribution from the SSPBA to keep quiet about problems at HPD than to actually take a stand for what’s right.
Huntersville deserves better. #AuditHPD.