Reed begins search for Atlanta's next police chief
Written by Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 05:26
Mayor-elect Kasim Reed on Wednesday is expected to name an interim to preside over the Atlanta Police Department until he finds a permanent successor to outgoing Chief Richard Pennington.
Reed's selection of Atlanta's next police chief will be one of the most important decisions he'll make as mayor, and he's promised his process will be open and transparent, seek public input and entertain applications from "super cops" from within APD and nationwide. For that reason, Reed said recently, he doesn't want to rush his decision.
The city's next chief, Reed said, should have experience in combating gang violence and must be someone who is engaged with the local community and mixes easily with the rank and file.
"I am going to do everything I can to have a man or woman from the Atlanta Police Department, but we are going to have a national search," Reed said in a recent interview. "Our police officers ought to be able to compete with the best and the brightest."
The top contenders from within APD are believed to be deputy chiefs George Turner and Peter Andresen because of their experience in making budgetary and personnel decisions.
Turner joined Atlanta's police force in 1981 and has commanded the Zone 1 precinct of northwest Atlanta. He now oversees APD's support services division, which includes the crime lab and the 911 communications center. Turner was a finalist last year for the police chief's position in Fort Worth, Texas. He declined comment.
Andresen, who also declined comment, commands APD's field operations division. This includes overseeing day-to-day street-level operations and all six precincts, the airport and the special operations section.
Other potential in-house candidates include deputy chief Carlos Banda, who oversees criminal investigations; Zone 5 commander Khirus Williams, a favorite of the Midtown community; his wife, Debra Williams, head of of special enforcement section; Lt. Jeff Glazier, who oversaw construction of APD's new headquarters; Maj. Lane Hagin, who oversees internal affairs; and Maj. John Dalton of the major crimes section.
But Reed has said "if there is a supercop somewhere else, the Atlanta people have to be able to compete." His selection process will soon begin in earnest, provided his election survives a recount and any late challenges mounted by supporters of his runoff opponent Mary Norwood.
Atlanta will be looking for a new chief at the same time cities such as Dallas and Seattle are looking for one too, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum.
"This is a mayor's most important hire, and it's one that's probably ten times more difficult than it was only a few years ago," Wexler said. "At one time, being an effective crime fighter was sufficient. Now, cities need crime fighters who also must manage departments with a lot less resources because of budget problems. The competition is fierce."
Reed said his search committee will select up to five finalists. Their names will be made public, allowing the public and the media to vet them before a final decision is made.
Reed has experience in helping pick a police chief. He was on Mayor Shirley Franklin's selection committee. Reed's panel recommended three finalists, including Pennington, the outgoing chief whom Reed has criticized for being disengaged.
The mayor-elect's search committee will include members of the citizen review board and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the city's largest police union.
Reed also has said he will try to model the chief's selection process after one recently used by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He set up a conference call this week with Villaraigosa to discuss how Los Angeles conducted its search. Last month, Villaraigosa picked Charlie Beck, LAPD's deputy chief, to succeed outgoing Chief William J. Bratton.
"I thought our process was very good, very straightforward and as transparent as it could possibly be," said Richard Tefank, executive director of the Los Angeles Police Commission. The city's charter guided the commission's selection process, which was put on a fast track, Tefank said. Bratton's successor, Beck, was confirmed as commissioner about two and a half months after Bratton's resignation.
Because Bratton's announcement was national news, the city did not need to do a lot of outreach to notify national candidates of the opening, said Los Angeles Police Commission member Robert Saltzman, associate dean of the University of Southern California law school. "It will be up to Atlanta to decide whether it wants to put resources into advertising the opening," he said.
Los Angeles gave potential chief candidates a three-week window to submit their applications. At the same time, the Police Commission, a five-member citizen panel that oversees LAPD, held public hearings and accepted online comments from city residents as to what type of police chief they wanted.
The city's personnel department and top members of the Police Commission screened the initial pool of applicants and sent 13 candidates -- 11 LAPD officials and two outside applicants -- to the full Police Commission.
Saltzman said he was impressed by the number of highly qualified candidates from within LAPD.
"That may repeat itself in other places, or it may not," Saltzman said. "I think we had so many good candidates because they had worked under Bratton's leadership. The hard part for us was winnowing the number down."
The commission interviewed all of the candidates and sent its top three recommendations to Villaraigosa, who interviewed each candidate for extended periods before making his final decision. As it turned out, all three finalists were high-ranking officials at LAPD.