Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Search for new St. Petersburg police chief officially under way

ST. PETERSBURG — City leaders kicked off the official search for a new police chief Tuesday, posting notices in newspapers, trade publications and law enforcement websites.

The city's one-page advertisement seeks someone who will inspire the department's 750 employees; ensure fair services to all citizens; effectively manage the agency's $90 million annual budget; work with stakeholders on goals, research and implement innovative crime-fighting strategies; solve complex administrative and community issues; and have a strong grasp of law enforcement models and philosophies, including intelligence-led, predictive and community policing.

The new chief's salary, depending on qualifications, will not exceed $159,000 annually, and Nov. 15 is the deadline to apply.

"We're anticipating well over 100 applications," Mayor Bill Foster said. "It's a great job."

It's also a position that hasn't been vacant in more than a decade. Police Chief Chuck Harmon, who announced last month he would soon retire, has held the post since 2001.

The news, coming in the middle of a mayoral election, immediately sparked buzz about who would be next to lead the agency and how and when that person would be picked.

In St. Petersburg, the mayor appoints the police chief.

Foster, who is locked in a tight battle for votes with challenger Rick Kriseman, has said he is not going to wait until the last minute to start a search. The mayor said his hope is to have a new chief by the end of January.

The process is likely to take months, and may not be complete before Jan. 6, Harmon's last day. In that case, an interim chief would be named, Foster said.

As of now, there are no plans to hire an outside firm to conduct the search, city officials said.

After the November deadline passes, a small panel will review resumes and come up with a short list of finalists, Foster said. That panel will consist of the mayor, Harmon, human resource director Gary Cornwell, city Administrator Tish Elston and a retired law enforcement officer who has not yet been selected.

Finalists will be vetted through December, Foster said. Those who pass the background check would be invited for in-person interviews by an advisory panel or panels, Foster said. The group would recommend its top pick, with the mayor having the final say.

Foster said he has not talked to Kriseman about the search. But the process he devised does mean the next mayor will choose the next chief.

"I anticipate being in that seat," Foster said. "The final selection will be mine."

Kriseman disagreed.

He said he would have liked the city to use an outside firm, but he thinks it's good that no major decisions will be made until after Nov. 5. He also said he hopes there will be ample community involvement in the process.

"The mayor and I have different philosophies on the direction of the department," Kriseman said. "If I'm a potential applicant, I'd want to know the philosophy of my boss."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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