published Monday, March 24th, 2014

77 from across U.S. apply to be Chattanooga's police chief

Chattanooga's search for a new police chief attracted 77 applications from law enforcement leaders across the country, including four internal candidates, according to the search firm hired to assist in the recruiting process.

The candidates have between 15 and 41 years' experience. Most are from departments serving cities with between 60,000 and 300,000 residents.

Out of the 77, three are women.

Law enforcement officers from 25 states applied; 48 are working in the Southeast, and 11 are from Tennessee.

Among the internal candidates applying for the job is interim Chief Stan Maffett, who has been with the department since 1974.

The city hired a consultant from the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum to draft a job description for the chief position. The consultant met with police officers, pastors and city leaders to draft the description.

The new chief, who will be responsible for running a 461-officer department, must have at least a bachelor's degree. The description states that "familiarity with violence reduction programs is required and experience with successful implementation is preferred."

The salary ranges between $115,000 and $146,000.

The city has paid $39,000 to the search firm.

Chattanooga Councilwoman Carol Berz said the new police chief recruiting, vetting and interviewing process is crucial because city leaders are emphasizing safe streets and lowering crime to boost the Scenic City's livability.

"Policing in a progressive city is changing in many ways, and the person we hire has to be a leader in that area," she said. "The new police chief will wear the mantle of leadership in that area.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, echoed the councilwoman's sentiments.

"Most importantly, the police chief really sets the standard," he said. "Leadership really matters. A department holding people accountable and treating citizens fairly, all of those things really come down to the individual person and what they bring to the position."

Mayor Andy Berke is expected to interview finalists and make a selection by May, said Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for the mayor.

"[The Police Executive Research Forum] is vetting the candidate field now and will be making recommendations to the mayor within the next two weeks," she said.

Then Berke will decide on a short list of candidates for a first round of interviews to be held within the following two weeks, Stone said.

A panel of residents -- local attorney and former magistrate Roger Dickson, Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox and Donna Roddy, on-site health educator for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee -- will have a week or so to confer and recommend finalists to the mayor, Stone said. Berke will interview those finalists and choose one.

The City Council must approve Berke's recommendation.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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