Show an ad over header. AMP

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.


  • "This is a turning point for policing in America," says Gary Peterson, CEO of Public Sector Search & Consulting, a boutique headhunting firm that exclusively handles police chief searches.
  • "Communities are demanding — they want to have input in who's going to be their next police leader."

Driving the news: Following last summer's protests, there has been high turnover among police chiefs in big cities, with many retiring or switching jobs to other cities. High-profile searches are under way in San Jose, Albuquerque, Miami and Memphis.

  • In San Jose — where the police sprayed rubber bullets at protesters last summer, provoking a civil rights lawsuit — a top-down selection approach was scrapped in favor of exhaustive and rigorous community vetting.
  • Seven finalists — culled from an intentional effort to gather a highly diverse candidate pool — engaged in a public community forum where they answered some of 500 questions submitted by the public.
  • They then faced days of grilling from panels representing 50 community and internal stakeholders.
  • "I was looking for a process different from what we’ve done in the past," San Jose city manager David Sykes tells Axios.
  • The pool has been narrowed to three internal candidates and a veteran of the Pittsburgh police, and a selection is imminent.

Where it stands: Dallas, which just hired San Jose's former police chief, went through a similar exercise. And Albuquerque, where the police department is under a federal consent decree, is doing the same.

  • Dallas picked Eddie Garcia — who attempted to ban the use of rubber bullets in San Jose, but was overruled by the city council — in part because he'll be the first Latino chief in a city that's 41% Latinx.
  • But some chiefs may be seen — rightly or wrongly — as too stigmatized to withstand such public tire-kicking.
  • Minneapolis chief Medaria Arradondo, who was in charge when George Floyd was murdered there, was briefly a finalist for the San Jose job, but withdrew his name from consideration (he didn't say why).

Albuquerque — where the search is ongoing — has "conducted over 40 community input sessions to hear directly from folks about what they would like to see in the next chief," per the city's police chief search website.

  • "The city also received nearly 2,300 responses to the online survey seeking input."

The big picture: The job comes with a "tremendous amount of scrutiny," as Sykes puts it — far more than in years past, ex-chiefs say — and the changing nature of the position means that different skills are at a premium.

  • It's still necessary to have superb operational and leadership skills, but now the third leg of the talent tripod — community engagement experience — is coming to the fore.
  • "It used to be a 'nice-to-have' — now it's a 'must-have,'" says Peterson, the headhunter who's advising San Jose and handled recent searches for Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco, among others.

The candidate pool has shrunk under the weight of all the demands, police recruiters say.

  • "While demonstrably smaller, the folks in the pool are really committed to reimagining policing and advancing it to the next level," says Peterson. "That's really important."

The bottom line: Transparency in the recruitment and selection process is a trend that's here to stay.

  • "Given what we've been through over the summer with the protests and the murder of George Floyd...it just seemed like we needed to do something different in the process here," says Sykes of San Jose.
  • "We wanted to take some of the mystery" out of it and " do a much more kind of rigorous evaluative process."

Czech Republic expels 18 Russian diplomats over 2014 depot explosion

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbetice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Keep reading... Show less

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI said in a statement to news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. and China agree to cooperate on climate action, but details remain to be negotiated

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.

Keep reading... Show less

"We couldn't do two things at once": Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

President Biden on Saturday sought to explain why he didn't immediately lift the Trump administration's historically low refugee cap.

Driving the news: Several Democrats accused Biden Friday of not fulfilling his pledge to raise the limit after it was announced he'd keep the cap. The White House said later it would be raised by May 15. Biden told reporters Saturday, "We're going to increase the number."

Keep reading... Show less

Children of color in rural areas battle deep health care disparities

Living in the nation's poorest, most rural communities can be a death sentence for African American and Native American children.

Why it matters: Lack of health care and healthy food make Black and indigenous childrenin the nation’s most disadvantaged counties five times as likely to die as children in other areas of the country,the advocacy group Save the Children found after analyzing federal data.

Keep reading... Show less

How telehealth can narrow racial disparities

Data: CDC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Racial disparities have been a constant problem in maternal health care, from rising death rates to the threat of severe COVID-19 among pregnant women. But now experts are hopeful that telehealth can help narrow those disparities.

Why it matters: It's not a complete solution to the racial barriers women of color face. But some experts are optimistic that telehealth — long-distance health care through videoconferences and other technology — can help reduce those barriers by offering flexibility in appointments and better access to diverse providers.

Keep reading... Show less

Capitol Hill's far right pushes Anglo-Saxon values, European architecture

Multiple far-right House Republicans have begun planning and promoting an America First Caucus aimed at pushing "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions," Punchbowl News first reported.

The big picture: "The document was being circulated as the GOP is struggling to determine a clear direction as it prepares to try winning back control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections," AP writes.

Keep reading... Show less

Super Typhoon Surigae rapidly intensifies to a Cat. 5 near Philippines

Super Typhoon Surigae surged in intensity from a Category 1 storm on Friday to a beastly Category 5 monster on Saturday, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 180 mph with higher gusts.

Why it matters: This storm — known as Typhoon Bising in the Philippines — is just the latest of many tropical cyclones to undergo a process known as rapid intensification, a feat that studies show is becoming more common due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories