Albany’s acting police chief will retire as the city moves ahead with its nationwide search for a new chief.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan's Tuesday afternoon announcement that Acting Police Chief Robert Sears, who took over the department in January 2017, is not applying for the permanent post caught some by surprise. And it came with another interesting nugget: Sears intends to retire once the new chief is found. "I was hopeful that Chief Sears would apply for the position. Clearly, he's made a decision not to and I certainly respect that decision. I know that moving his family into Albany has always been a tough consideration for him. And he came to me and said that he wasn't willing to do that, didn't wanna do it. And I talked to him about the potential of a waiver, and to Chief Sears' credit, he said he wouldn't apply for one because he believes that the chief should live in the city of Albany and that there wasn't a reason for him to seek that waiver and that he was going to explore other opportunities. So, he's done a great job. That's why I've been perfectly comfortable having this process take a while."
The search began in December 2016 when Brendan Cox announced he would resign as police chief to take a position with a national law enforcement guidance organization. Sears was appointed acting chief. "When I decided I wasn’t gonna, you know, put in for the chief’s job, I figured it that would probably be in the best interests of whoever the new chief is coming in to have a clean slate and not have to worry about someone being here that was the chief for 18 months.”
Cox was earning a yearly salary of $90,000 when he left the force.
Three community forums were held during mid-April of 2018 so citizens could weigh in and offer their opinions. 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."
Sheehan, a Democrat, has formed an advisory committee made up of several community leaders, who will be asked with interviewing and evaluating candidates.
One member is Alice Green, Executive Director of The Center For Law and Justice, who has worked closely with the police and is no stranger to the selection process, having been involved in previous searches for chiefs. She says time after time people say they want a culturally-competent chief who can articulate a clear vision for the city and the police department, with strong leadership and communication skills, someone with experience in urban policing who would provide trasparency while embracing community involvement. "Those are the kind of things that people told us when we went through this process I think about eight or nine years ago. I think much of it is still true. We talked to people recently and got their input and they were basically saying the same thing."
Sheehan's nine-member advisory committee will recommend several finalists, and she believes a new chief will be named by the end of August. "They're going through a process right now of interviewing those candidates, they've agreed on questions that will be asked and we're moving through that process, and then they will make some suggestions to me as to who I should interview, it may be that they want me to interview all of them that they screen. We're really leaving it open."
Conti notes that under the city charter, the mayor's final choice must be confirmed by the Common Council.
Sears plans to remain until a new chief is installed. “Obviously I’m trying to look at different opportunities. I don’t have anything definitely lined up at this point, so I guess you could say I’m a free agent.”
City Hall says Sears plans to retire later this summer.