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Sep 16

Searching for Our New Chief

Posted on September 16, 2019 at 5:25 PM by Melinda Mayo

In January our current Police Chief will retire, ending his 39-year career in law enforcement.  Work has begun on securing his replacement, and I want to share in this post a bit about that process and how the community can stay informed and engaged.

Who Does the Chief Report to?

As is the case with all 1,700 employees of the City, along with the City Council, the Chief works on your behalf.  The Chief is hired by and reports to me, the City Manager, with daily reporting to one of the two Assistant City Managers.  As such, I am responsible for devising the approach that will be used in securing candidates for the new Chief and selecting the person that will become the new leader of the men and women of the Roanoke Police Department.

A Little Help

Often for a senior level position, the City will use the services of a search firm.  I have decided that this will be the case for the Chief search.  I feel this is advantageous for a couple of reasons.  A search firm with experience in other successful Chief searches will be familiar with what did and did not work in the searches, and will bring along a network of possible candidates.  It will also add an outside perspective, assisting us in asking the right questions to help get the best candidates.  In addition, using a search firm enables us to have someone focused exclusively on helping find the best candidates out there, whereas the folks in our Human Resources Department are busy helping us secure the dozens of other positions we are actively recruiting.  This assistance, like all professional help, will cost us some money but, in the end, it will be well worth it.

Your Part

As I noted earlier, the Chief works on behalf of the community, helping us all stay safer.  It is therefore essential that the community have the opportunity to help in the process of identifying the best candidate for the job.  I have developed a process that enables this in a few ways.  First, you can help me identify the qualities and experiences needed in our next Chief.  I am meeting and interviewing dozens of folks throughout our community that represent diverse interests and perspectives, along with talking with each Council Member and the Mayor.  I will also be making available a survey enabling anyone to highlight the characteristics and experiences they believe most important for a Chief to have. And, of course, you should always feel free to call or email me with your thoughts and preferences.  I will use this information when I sit with the selected search firm to craft the recruitment profile, and we will again use this information when we go through the interview process.

Once we have successfully recruited an ample and diverse pool of candidates I will begin the interview process.  I have developed a process that uses two interview panels to assist me in this effort.  One panel will consist of folks inside the organization who the Chief will work with on a regular basis.  This will include individuals like the Fire Chief, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and others.  The second panel will include individuals from the community who offer a particular perspective that will be valuable for an incoming Chief.  This will include representatives from the NAACP, area businesses, those concerned about domestic violence, the Task Force on Gun Violence, and others.  These panels will interview the best candidates and share directly with me their thoughts and impressions of each.  This information will be of great assistance as I too meet and interview each of the candidates.

Once I have arrived at who I believe to be the best candidate for the job, I will host an open house to introduce the candidate to the community and afford anyone that would like, the opportunity to meet and interact with the candidate. 

Taking Time to Get It Right

This is a very important hire for the City and one I want the community to be involved in through the entire process.  This will take time.  I initiated this process in August with the posting of the RFP for search firm services, and I do not expect to conclude the process until spring of next year.  This provides us ample time to ensure the candidate pool is adequate and diverse, and that we have the time necessary to do this well.  This will likely require the appointment of an interim Chief in January, who will serve until the new Chief is selected.  We are fortunate to have two highly qualified Deputy Chiefs able to serve in this capacity.  

Remaining Engaged

I have identified a portion of our website to keep the public informed of the process and of the steps along the way. Click here to see the webpage. Currently you can view the RFP that was issued and my preliminary outline of the recruitment process.  Future postings will include the survey mentioned earlier, the recruitment brochure, the list of interview panel members, etc.  We will use media alerts and social media posts to let folks know when new information has been updated on the site, and I encourage you to check it on occasion.

I am confident with this process and your help I will be able to select the best person possible for our next Chief of Police and that, together with the members of the Roanoke Police Department, that person will continue to help you stay safe so that you are able to fully enjoy all that Roanoke has to offer.

-- Bob Cowell


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