Portland hopes for a new top cop by the new year

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PORTLAND — City Manager Mark Rees said he will consider a national pool of candidates to find the city’s new police chief.

Rees said in a press release he would be accepting applications from Sept. 26 to Oct. 28, with the hope of hiring a new chief by Jan. 1.

Rees said a competitive process for such a high-profile position will give the public and the city’s workforce confidence the best candidate is being hired.

The national search will not preclude local officers from throwing their hats in the ring.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who said he will seek the post, said he understands Rees’ decision to look nationally for a police chief.

But Sauschuck said the manager may not have to look that far to find the next chief, because there is a “very deep” internal talent pool.

“I would put our civilian employees, patrol officers, supervisors, and command staff members against anyone in the nation, so we look forward to the challenge,” he said.

Former Police Chief James Craig advocated for the city to hire an internal candidate when he announced his intention to leave Portland to become Cincinnati’s top cop.

Craig said an internal candidate would be best positioned to carry on initiatives like his senior lead officer and community policing programs.

The leaders of two neighborhood groups said it is wise for the city to cast a wide net for candidates.

If a local candidate emerges from a national search, Deering Center Neighborhood Association President Naomi Mermin said, it will give that person more credibility.

“That way if one of our own is selected, she comes to the position with the authority of having been the absolute best choice from a full competition,” Mermin said.

Chip Edgar, president of the Riverton Community Association, said he hope the new chief continues the senior lead officer and community policing programs.

“I was impressed with the old chief’s ideas,” Edgar said. “It showed he really understood what needed to be done.”

Rees expressed commitment to Craig’s work.

“It is paramount that we identify a candidate that can hit the ground running and keep current projects moving forward,” he said.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the Human Resources Department will collect applications. After an initial review of applicants and phone interviews, Rees will then assemble an interview panel of city officials, union and community leaders to interview candidates, she said.

The application process will include an assessment center that will likely be run by a third party. Clegg estimated that contract would cost about $15,000. The center will test applicants reactions to real-life scenarios in at least 10 areas, plus a tactical exercise, simulation exercise and program planning.

When Craig was hired, the city hired the International Association of Chiefs of Police for about $30,000 to conduct the search, Clegg said.

“The Police Department touches the lives of thousands of residents every year, which is why community input is so crucial,” said Rees, who started work in July. “Equally important is the feedback from city staff from the front line to the department head, the success of the department is dependent upon successful internal and interdepartmental relationships.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings