The open recruitment process for the search to hire a new South Pasadena police chief was closed two days before Christmas, according to city officials.

It’s unknown at this time the number of applicants the city received during the open enrollment from November to midnight on Dec. 23 because officials did not release that information by The Review’s press deadline.

The city is in the market for a new police chief since former Chief Art Miller resigned recently to take a similar position in Arizona.

City officials have contracted with Teri Black & Company, an 18-year professional recruiter, to spearhead the search and the process. Black has held two public meetings to gather public input as to the qualities So Pas residents want in their top law enforcement officer as well as an online survey. The online survey that residents can take to have their input heard can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/YQFWNM2.

The city has gathered information as to the qualities that are required for the chief, including integrity, judgement, leadership and familiarity with the community.

In fact, the So Pas Public Safety Commission held a special meeting where Black gathered pertinent information regarding those necessary qualities.

At that meeting, where Black filled up seven sheets of paper on a large wall, those additional qualities were leadership, respect for So Pas residents, the ability to represent the city well, the ability to write well, willingness to serve longer than three to five years, commitment to public service, impeccable credentials, trust, and not a change agent.

However, the search process has not been without controversy.

So Pas City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe has opted to exclude a community-based panel as part of the process. There’s going to be a professional panel comprised of sworn law enforcement executives and a city employee panel comprised of South Pasadena city workers.

DeWolfe recently told the Public Safety Commission that there wouldn’t be a community-based or public panel because confidentiality cannot be guaranteed with such a panel.

Safety Commissioners said that at least one of them should be on the panel because their expertise is invaluable.

“Just speaking for myself,” Ellen Daigle, commission chairwoman, said to DeWolfe during a recent Public Safety Commission meeting, “I have sat on this committee for six years and have been with two police chiefs and not to have somebody from our commission on the panel is a huge loss because I think as much as anybody who has gone through two police chiefs, seen them…seen what they did, met with them once a month, personally, not having one of us on  (the panel) does not make a strong internal panel and certainly I think any of us would be happy to be very confidential. I think that would be a real loss.”

DeWolfe countered by saying as commissioners they’re part of the community and that would make them a community-based or public panel, which she excluded from having because it would limit the candidate pool. Some candidates, DeWolfe said, will only apply for the job if they are assured the process is confidential and a community panel does not assure that confidentiality.

DeWolfe explained the exclusion this way.

“I understand your concern, certainly,” she told the commission. “Unfortunately, it is just industry best-practice for hiring a police chief that there not be a community panel. If we were to go that direction, we would lose a significant number of potential candidates. We really can’t afford to do that. This city does not pay within a pay-band that we will get a large pool to begin with, and I really think it’s not in the best interest of the city to further reduce the pool of applicants that we will have available.”

A recent letter to the editor also questioned DeWolfe’s logic, calling it “flimsy rationale.”

“Public panels are important in establishing community buy-in with the process,” So Pas resident Ron Rosen writes in his letter to the editor published in the Dec. 21 issue. “The participation of members of the Public Safety Commission, other commissioners, and other citizens with experience and knowledge of the city are very important. I’m very troubled that we have a City Manager who would not only deprive citizens of this opportunity, but would offer a flimsy rationale for doing so. Interestingly, one quality listed by the forums was ‘respect for South Pasadena residents.’ The City Manager should take note of that.”

The city is now going to screen out candidates and have the panels interview the finalists. The final decision will be the City Manager’s and DeWolfe is anticipating having a new police chief in February.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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