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City may need headhunter to find new police chief

October 4, 2011

The likely first step in finding a new police chief: hire a consultant to oversee a national search.

That’s how it’s typically been done in Colorado Springs, which in 2006 retained a company called Rainguet & Associates to coordinate the hunt that ended with Richard Myers’ selection.

National search firms — though costly — are seen as a way to ensure the hiring process is guided by those with expertise in law enforcement who executive with the skills and background necessary for the job.

“It’s one of the most important selections a city will make, and it’s worthwhile investing to make sure the process is as fair, comprehensive and valid as possible,” said Leonard Matarese of the Washington D.C.-based International City/County Management Association.

His firm assists in interviews and runs drills in which prospective police chiefs demonstrate how they’d direct an emergency response and take questions during a mock news conference.

The city of Fort Collins will pay roughly $15,000 to Slavin Management of Mesa, Ariz., which recently helped pare down a list of 106 applicants to five, said Kim Newcomer, city spokeswoman.

Denver’s search for a new police chief involved a $39,500 contract with Police Executive Research Forum, paid for with private funds, said Amber Miller, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Hancock.

The costs for a city of Colorado Springs’ size could range from $20,000 to $60,000, consultants told The Gazette.

“Most cities strive to have the whole process done within 120 days, but some have gone up to 180 days,” said Lorne Kramer, who helped with the 2006 search as city manager and now serves as a managing partner for the search firm KRW Inc.

Under Colorado’s fledgling strong mayor government, hiring and firing decisions rest in the hands of Mayor Steve Bach, although City Council must ratify his pick for police chief.

Bach couldn’t be reached Tuesday, but Chief of Staff, Steve Cox, said Bach hasn’t made a decision on whether to hire a headhunting firm.

Council members contacted Tuesday listed what they are looking for in the next police chief:

• Val Snyder: Engage the community

“Chief Myers was great with the community. He was really good. That would probably be the No. 1 thing — someone who engages the community.”

• Brandy Williams: Past experience as a police chief; broad perspective

“I think in the process of a national search, we’ll get to see a glimpse of what is going on with law enforcement nationally.”

• Tim Leigh: Fresh eyes; innovative ways of stretching the police budget.

“I’d like to see innovation, a strategic thinker and courage to take action. I would highly encourage any local officer who thought he was qualified to submit an application.”

• Scott Hente: Same as the chief that is being replaced.

“A clone of Chief Myers. That’s what I’m looking for.”

• Angela Dougan (Her husband is a Colorado Springs police officer): A “real cop”who can improve morale.

“These stumbles in the past, I want them to be just stumbles.”

Gazette writer Ryan Maye Handy contributed to this report.


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