Last Sunday about 5 p.m., I received a memorandum from the city’s personnel director notifying my office of the Selection Committee’s recommendations for police chief.
The candidates had participated in a rigorous day-long assessment center on Saturday, and the committee had carried out its public interviews on Sunday. Once they concluded deliberations, they issued their recommendations to me for final selection.
The Selection Committee met regularly over the past few months to review and discuss the entire pool of applicants and worked closely with the consultant to narrow down the field. The city ordinance requires the use of a consultant to assist the search process. Badgequest was selected, with Chief Steve Unsworth, former police chief in Waltham, as the leader.
Many thanks go out to the members of the Selection Committee. Citizens Steve Curcuru, Loretta Peres, Douglas MacArthur were on the committee, along with City Councilor Paul McGeary and two members of the Police Department — Lt. Joseph Fitzgerald and Detective Jeremiah Nicastro. Each member was diligent in his and her efforts, and sacrificed much personal time, including last Sunday, a sunny summer weekend day.
But back to the memorandum that I received from the Selection Committee. With the recommendations in hand, I initiated another round of candidate interviews through the mayor’s office. We used the same process we used for the interviews of the finalists for fire chief.
Each candidate was scheduled for a three-hour time block in my office. The first half-hour was with myself, the candidate, and the personnel director. In most cases, I was meeting the candidate for the first time, and this was a nice opportunity to get acquainted.
After that, two sergeants from the Police Department joined me in the interview. The rank of sergeant had not been represented yet in the process, and since they are the line supervisors to the patrolmen, it was important to have their perspective. Also, police officers can ask very direct “cop-to-cop” questions in a way that a mayor cannot.
We then brought in the management team for another interview discussion. This included CFO Jeff Towne, City Solicitor Suzanne Egan, Fire Chief Eric Smith, and Police Chief Mike Lane. Questions were wide-ranging and included budget experience, contract negotiations, management style, media relations experience, joint operations between fire and police, disciplinary approach, grievance-handling, etc.
The last hour was spent with myself and the personnel director driving around the city with each candidate. You can learn a lot about a person when engaged in less formal discussion. It was important to point out the diversity of the city. We toured “hot spots” as well as Annisquam, East Gloucester, and Magnolia.
All in all, from beginning to end, the process was rigorous and professional. I am spending the weekend rereading all the written essays prepared by the candidates, reviewing the assessment center results, and speaking with the dozen or so folks who participated either on the Selection Committee or in my interviews.
And then, I will make a decision. From there, we will conduct a thorough background check on the finalist, negotiate a contract, and then put the finalist forward to the City Council for confirmation.
The selection of police chief for a community is incredibly important and not only sets the tone for the department but law enforcement for all citizens as well. It is my hope that, when the nomination is announced, the community will rally to support the next chief of the Gloucester Police Department.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.