Trend: Police chief searches are more transparent

The national trend for police chief searches is for them to be open, transparent and with plenty of public input.

Jennifer A. Kingson writes in Axios Cities that the choice of a police chief has become like an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate.

Gary Peterson, CEO of Public Sector Search & Consulting, told Kingson, “Communities are demanding — they want to have input in who’s going to be their next police leader.”

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson has launched a national search for the city’s next police chief over the objection of the local police union that wants one of its members to be appointed to the spot.

Robinson’s predecessor, Ashton Hayward, made his police chief appointments – Chip Simmons, David Alexander and Tommi Lyter – without any national search or public input. All were from inside the Pensacola Police Department.

High-profile searches are under way in San Jose, Albuquerque, Miami and Memphis. In San Jose, a top-down selection approach was scrapped in favor of community vetting of the candidates.

San Jose City Manager David Sykes told Axios,”We wanted to take some of the mystery” out of it and ” do a much more kind of rigorous evaluative process.”


1 thought on “Trend: Police chief searches are more transparent

  1. The real issue is who will see all of the applications and who gets to decide which ones get weeded out and which ones move forward in the process. In theory, Mayor Robinson could keep the entire process a big secret, pick the applicant he believes will be the most compliant and only submit that name to the City Council for confirmation. Of he could use the old Ashton Hayward trick and announce that he has changed the name of the Pensacola Police Department to now be the Pensacola Police Division or Pensacola Police Bureau and assert that the City Council only has a constitutional power to confirm the appointment of “department” heads so he will give the job to whomever he wants and thank you very much. Hayward pulled that stunt all the time and the City Council never did much more than look down at their shoes and whimper. An alternative idea would be for the City Council to adopt an ordinance (a city law) that creates a standing committee with one member directly appointed by each City Council member whose job it is to review all department head applications, interview candidates, rank them and provide that information concurrently to the Mayor and City Council. It is probably better to have department heads vetted by citizens vice picked by a mayor who can be tossed to the curb at the end of a four year term with citizens stuck with whomever he picked. It really is a City Council decision here because they can simply refuse to consider any police chief nomination until there is a process that ends the deep secrecy of the selection process.

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