A search for a new chief to lead the city of Albany's police force is underway following three community meetings seeking citizen input.
"The mayor and the city have invited you to be a part of this forum today because we believe it's very important to get the community's input as we seek our next police chief, " said Albany's chief diversity officer Jellisa Joseph as she welcomed attendees to the Sidney Albert Jewish Community Center for the third of three forums this week that presented residents with an opportunity to share their thoughts about the qualities they want to see in the next police chief.
Sixth ward Common Councilor Dick Conti attended all three. "People generally, from what I'm hearing, like the policing path that we're on. More community oriented, neighborhood oriented, and want to see that strengthened."
JCC forum attendees said they want a chief who will exude integrity, compassion, knowledge and a commitment to bias-free policing, a chief with a proven track record in community policing who will also focus on interaction with city youth. "Some of the issues out there are gonna be, you know, bringing the chief in from the outside or the inside, there's pros and cons. Wanting a chief that is really part of the community, can bond with the community, you might say. Want a police force that's responsive, that's open, that's accessible. Those are all the things that you hear. In some neighborhoods you do hear people who have had experiences that color the type of chief that they might want."
Joseph documented all three meetings. "So what happens first after this is that Gary, or Public Sector Search and Consulting, starts the actual outreach. So we're gonna get all the information we have and put it together as part of the profile for the candidate. And so he'll start the outreach with different organizations, different websites, different individuals he may know from his prior work. Then he'll screen that initial group of applications and then have a conversation with the mayor regarding the selection metrics."
Gary Peterson is president and CEO of Public Sector Search and Consulting, the firm retained by the city to conduct the search. Peterson had a 26-year career in the public sector, serving as an appointed Chief of Police for the City of Martinez in the San Francisco area. "I was at every meeting. I moderated the meetings. I look at the information and go through it line by line and try and match up similar information and similar responses and ideas so that we can get the essence of what the community wants. It's not gonna be a verbatim, it's not gonna be exact. It's gonna be the themes that came out of the meetings."
When the JCC crowd was asked "What should Mayor Kathy Sheehan consider when making her decision in selecting a candidate for chief," one person said "the mayor should make her choice from within," and received a round of applause when she declared that Acting Chief Bob Sears "understands the dynamic of the city."
Conti says under the city charter, the mayor's final choice will have to be confirmed by the council. "So we will go through our own process. We confirmed Chief Krokoff. We confirmed Chief Cox. Those were both processes that we wanted to make sure we had public input. Of course Chief Krokoff, who went through a public process, we had a very lengthy council meeting where we did a lot of questioning regarding his philosophy and approach because he was brand new, not brand new to the department, but he was promising a different path, and so we did a lot to explore that. We also had a very lengthy meeting with Chief Cox when he was before the council. So whoever we pick I can see the full council participating in that discussion. Public process, public hearings."
Joseph says there is no set timetable. "Our hope is to have a new chief installed by July, but again that's not a hard and fast deadline. That's the schedule that we're currently like working with. But anything could change depending on what happens. The number of candidates we get, the number of applications."
Joseph says the mayor’s office eventually will post a synopsis of the three forums on the city website.