Waters Consulting Group was contracted by the city to conduct the search for a new chief – a project they’ve been tasked with before. The group conducted the last police search about two years ago, which ultimately ended in the hiring of former chief Bill Lee.
Because of this past experience, said City Manager Norton Bonaparte, the group was able to offer a much lower price for the current search, which is costing the city about $21,000. This price came at an approximate $9,000 discount from other bids, said Bonaparte.
However, past experience in a search for a police chief candidate for Sanford only slightly prepares the group for the current search. Because of recent events, the group must incorporate new needs and qualifications for a chief for the city.
“Sanford is a different Sanford than two years ago,” said Bonaparte.
Joining the city manager Wednesday was Waters Consulting Group representatives Chuck Rohre and Andrea Battle-Sims. Both agreed that community and city staff’s input are key in forming a new profile for the city’s next chief.
“We have different expectations for a person that will be able to deal with the challenges Sanford has faced,” said Battle-Sims. “Sanford has had some big-city challenges.”
Rohre continued, “I think there are candidates that are motivated by challenges.”
The process to find the chief will include forming a position profile with specific qualifications and preferences, said Rohre. That job description will be disseminated to trade publications and police departments throughout the nation to help identify any interested or qualified candidates.
After an initial pool of candidates is collected, the group will narrow the search results down to under 20 candidates. Those semi-final candidates will receive a questionnaire from the city asking about specific experience in areas of interest, said Bonaparte.
From there three to five candidates will be selected for interviews.
The first step of this process, however, is to determine those qualifications needed through discussions with the community and city staff.
Prior to Wednesday’s forum representatives from Waters Consulting Group met with leaders of the Seminole County chapter of the NAACP, high-ranking members of the police department and the president of the Central Florida Urban League. Bonaparte said emails were also sent to each officer in the police department requesting input on the new chief.
The final part of this equation, said Bonaparte, was the public forum held Wednesday to gain insight from the community about what they would like to see in a new police chief.
Many residents at the forum delivered input one might expect – the new chief should be respectful, listen to community concerns and address crime throughout the city.
Others, however, had specific requests of the next chief.
Resident Vernon Johnson said, “I would like the new police chief to represent all of Sanford.”
Johnson added that areas like Goldsboro and Georgetown should see an increase in police patrols and a sincere effort to keep those areas crime-free.
Pastor Valarie Houston requested the new chief be effective in his administrative skills and utilize each officer’s strong points. She also asked that officers are given promotions when appropriate.
Resident Lon Howell asked the new chief be hired from outside the city to steer Sanford away from its “good ol’ boy” perception.
“Please do whatever you can do to not make it a good ol’ boy pick,” said Howell.
A few in the crowd also brought up Lee’s qualifications and asked for the same in a new chief. One resident even asked, “Can we hire Lee back?”
Bonaparte said the city will also take additional comments in the upcoming week from residents who could not make the meeting. Comments and input about the new police chief should be sent to PIO@SanfordFL.gov.
Rohre said a posting for the new position could be created as early as next week. The listing, he said, will probably remain active for 30 to 40 days.
The city expects to interview the final three to five candidates for the position sometime in early December. Rohre said in the best case-scenario Sanford could have a new chief by early to mid-January.
Bonaparte said, however, the city will use whatever resources and as much time needed to find the best person for the job.
“We’ll take what time it takes to get the job done right,” said Bonaparte. “We want to make sure we have the best opportunity to recruit the best possible candidate.”