The list of candidates for Chattanooga police chief has been narrowed to fewer than 20, and Mayor Andy Berke's blue-ribbon panel is interviewing some of them in person this week.
Originally, 77 law enforcement officers from 25 states applied to succeed former Chief Bobby Dodd, who retired Dec. 31. For the last two weeks the search firm hired by the city for nearly $40,000, Police Executive Research Forum, has been evaluating the applications.
The mayor's office declined to release the exact number of candidates or their names Thursday, citing a confidentiality policy with the search firm.
Lacie Stone, Berke's spokeswoman, said most of the candidates have been interviewed. The panel will recommend the finalists' names to Berke.
He is expected to make his decision -- what experts have called one of the most important decisions he'll make as mayor -- by May.
In January, the City Council gave Berke the go-ahead to hire the search firm, which interviewed city officials, police and pastors to create a profile for the chief position.
Qualifications include a bachelor's degree. The new chief must be familiar with violence reduction programs. Experience implementing such a program, which is similar to the one Chattanooga has rolled out, is preferred.
Within the initial pool of candidates, three are women. Four work at the Chattanooga Police Department and one is interim Chief Stan Maffett, who has been with the department since 1974.
Roger Dickson, a Chattanooga attorney who is one of the three blue-ribbon panel members, said Thursday he was interviewing candidates this week, but he said he had been told not to give any details.
The panel, which also includes Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox and Donna Roddy, on-site health educator for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will interview all of the candidates either in person or by phone before recommending the finalists to Berke.
Once Berke decides, he will ask the City Council to approve his recommendation.
City officials said Thursday they were surprised to learn the candidates' list already had been whittled down. But several councilmen said they are happy the search is coming along.
"I'm anxious to hear any progress report they're ready to give and anxious to get to the point where we get a candidate before us," said Councilman Moses Freeman.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.