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Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's office has extended the application deadline for the city's police chief position after the application was modified to remove the requirement of a college degree.

Originally, applicants were asked to submit their materials by June 9, but the position has been reposted with a new deadline of 11:30 a.m. on June 20. Applicants also no longer have to have a bachelor's degree.

The minimum qualifications section online also now reads: "Fourteen (14) years of any combination of relevant education, training or experience sufficient to perform the essential duties of the job will be considered.

"Examples of relevant experience include progressively responsible supervisory work and/or training in law enforcement, criminal investigations, and police administration through the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain, with seven years at a management level."

City spokeswoman Marissa Bell said the modification was made at the request of the six-person search committee organized by Berke to guide the hiring process.

"The selection committee requested that applicants with equivalent experience to a college degree be allowed to apply," Bell wrote in an email.

"HR re-posted the listing to allow time for people to apply who may not have previously because the listed requirement was a college degree and did not include 'equivalent experience.'"

Stacy Richardson, Berke's chief of staff, said the committee asked the mayor's office to see if it would be possible to include an equivalency standard that allowed them to consider applicants who may not have a college degree, but have held senior positions in law enforcement.

"The No. 1 thing they communicated to us was they wanted it to be a fair process," Richardson said.

Richardson said the city has already received applications from 34 people, some of whom did not have a bachelor's degree, although she declined to comment on who those candidates were. The application process that brought current Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher to the city drew 77 applicants.

She also said Fletcher has been in talks with Berke regularly about the ongoing hiring process.

"The mayor and Chief Fletcher have a standing weekly meeting and I know they've discussed the search in those meetings," she said.

"[Berke] takes his input very seriously. I can tell you that the mayor really values his opinion and that they talk regularly about the best way to ensure continuity in the department as we go through this decision."

Multiple members of the committee could not be reached for comment about the application change and one member who was reached, former U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, declined to comment on it.

"I think, actually, the search committee has decided to speak as a whole committee rather than as individual members granting interviews," he said. "We talked about that at our meeting because our effort is a joint one and we're going to speak as a joint committee."

The committee was formed by Berke after Fletcher announced April 7 he would retire at the end of his contract in July. It will review and vet the applicants and recommend no more than three finalists to Berke. His choice must be ratified by the Chattanooga City Council.

In addition to Killian, the committee includes former District Attorney Bill Cox; Olga de Klein, former chairwoman of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association's safety committee; pastor Ternae Jordan of Mount Canaan Baptist Church; TechTown CEO Chris Ramsey; and General Sessions Court Judge Christie Sell.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.

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