Police chief search outlined to CPAC

Police union’s request not getting much traction

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

With the city of Pensacola entering into a search for a new chief of police, members of the city’s Citizen Police Advisory Committee got an opportunity Tuesday to dialogue with Gary Peterson, the consultant heading up the search process.

“Could you talk about why this process is done?” inquired CPAC Chairman Drew Buchanan. “Is this a standard practice, would you say, for cities going forward, a nationwide search?”

“I would say that it is a standard practice,” Peterson replied. “For a couple of different reasons: inclusion, transparency. Both of those two things help with police legitimacy.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #71, the police officers’ union, has requested Mayor Grover Robinson cancel the nationwide search efforts and name interim Chief Kevin Christman as the department’s next leader. Peterson told CPAC members that he believed following through on the search would lend “legitimacy” to the eventually selected candidate.

“It’s going to give the selected candidate, whether they’re an internal candidate or an external candidate, legitimacy in the community’s eyes, that they went through a process, a community process where at the end of the day they were recognized as the best candidate that fits with that organization,” the consultant said.

Peterson, a retired police chief from California who now runs Public Sector Search and Consulting, ran through the upcoming search process with CPAC, outlining a process which will include community input forums and eventually result in a shortlist of candidates from which the mayor will select a new chief.

“The whole idea of the search is to provide information to the mayor, to inform the mayor’s decision and do that in a way where you include multiple stakeholders,” Peterson said.

We think this is the right thing to do for our community, to be sure that we identify the right candidate for us. – Mayor Robinson


After gathering community input, Peterson will put together a package aimed at potential candidates, with the city accepting applications beginning Feb. 1. By Mar. 11, Peterson, working with the city’s selection committee, expects to have a list of finalists.

Before evaluating any candidates for the chief position, Peterson stressed the importance of getting a community read on the matter. That information, he said, should define the type of candidate the city seeks.

“What cities have done in the past, they hire who they want to hire anyway, instead of listening to the community,” the consultant said. “What we’ve done in policing historically, we’ve given the community what we think they need, and they’re telling us something different right now. I think we need to listen.”

“We think this is the right thing to do for our community, to be sure that we identify the right candidate for us,” agreed Mayor Robinson.

Robinson said that he found the police union’s request to abandon the search “a little concerning.” He explained Christman had been hired as a deputy chief with plans to groom him over a period of years for the chief position, but that former chief Tommi Lyter’s early exit upended those plans.

“We did a search for a deputy chief that we expected would have an amount of time to get to a certain level, and again that’s not exactly what we ended up getting, so we are coming forward with a search,” the mayor said.

Robinson also said that Christman seemed to be copacetic with the search process.

“It’s a little concerning to me that the union has concerns about his ability to compete, but I can assure you that Deputy Chief Christman has no problems and has expressed nothing but his willingness to be a part of the process and to compete in the process,” Mayor Robinson told CPAC members.


1 thought on “Police chief search outlined to CPAC

  1. Just for the record, could someone in the media find out and report if “nationwide” searches were done to select the three prior Pensacola Police Chiefs – Chip Simmons (2010), David Alexander (2015) and Tommi Lyter (2017). As I recall, the last three police chiefs had each been the assistant police chief. As I also recall the process of nominating Alexander, I believe that Lyter was picked at the same time. I would have thought, and said so at the time to a few councilmembers, that a better practice would be to let the police chief pick their own assistant police senior and senior leadership team. I recall thinking in 2015 that Mayor Hayward was appointing Alexander to appease the city’s black community but intended to get rid of him as soon as he could (as he did) and certainly before leaving office in 2018 to put in a new police chief before he left. [In early 2017, Hayward’s wife was telling people that he was not going to run again for reelection and he had put his house up for sale in November 2016.] I don’t recall nationwide public searches being conducted in 2010, 2015 or 2017 to select the assistant police chief or police chief. If such searches were done, the city should be eager to provide information to the press about the most seven recent nationwide searches (to include the selection of Kevin Christman as Assistant Police Chief) to include the brochure posted online, the names of the candidates who applied, the names of the candidates who were interviewed here, and the finalists. If nationwide searches were conducted, who knew about them? Was the City Council told? Lyter was not even allowed to attend the public City Council meeting where they voted to confirm his nomination, to ensure that he was asked no uncomfortable questions about crime in the city or problems in the PPD. If such nationwide searches were not held, then that would help better explain the police union’s frustration, i.e. why the change? By the way, I saw a list of organizations that would be part of this new search. I would include the Florida League of Cities, National Association of Counties and International City/County Management Association too.

Comments are closed.