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Public weighs in on next police chief

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The city of Rocky Mount hosted two focus groups Wednesday to elicit comments from the public about the qualities they desire in the next chief of police and to share the hiring process with them.

The focus group was led by Pat Bazemore, a retired police chief from Cary who now works with Developmental Associates, an executive search firm. The firm will be working with Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney to seek a replacement for interim Police Chief Willie Williams, who has served in the position since former chief James Moore retired in December 2017.

“We’re here to identify what is needed with the next police chief, and we’ll be working to find out exactly what the community needs and what the police department needs to get to the next level,” Bazemore said. “We are excited to get feedback from the community.”

During the focus groups, Bazemore asked a series of open-ended questions including what attendees thought about the problems and challenges facing the next police chief, obstacles facing the city during the next five years and personal expectations of the next police chief.

Members of the focus groups cited crime reduction, the building of morale among police officers, transparency, a willingness to work with other law enforcement agencies and a greater connection with the public as among the greatest needs to be addressed by the next police chief. They also said that the next police chief will need to do some damage control with the public, the police department and the media at the beginning of his or her tenure.

Participants named a number of qualities they desire in the next top cop including integrity, intelligence, leadership, the ability to empower officers, forward-thinking, empathy and the ability to stand up to the City Council when necessary. However, the Rev. Wayne Hines said the next police chief would need help to accomplish his or her goals.

“We can have all these expectations for the next police chief, but we all have to get involved and be part of the process so we can help him meet these expectations,” Hines said.

The process of hiring the next chief will be extensive, Bazemore said. The job description will be based on community input from these forums and will be listed for 30 days. Candidates will then be screened, and qualifying candidates will go through a telephone interview. A select number of candidates will then be subjected to an intense series of exercises to determine their fitness in various areas before a final slate of six to eight candidates is presented to the city manager for further vetting and a final selection.

During this week, City Council members, Mayor David Combs and members of the Rocky Mount Police Department were given the chance to share their input on the qualities needed in a new chief. However, Small-Toney said the final decision will rest in her hands.

“We’ve taken on the role of gathering various stakeholders in this process,” Small-Toney said. “We thought it would be important to receive feedback with these two focus groups. However, the process is designed so the decision will not be a political one.”

Bazemore said the goal is to select a new chief before the end of the year in time to allow him or her a chance to work with Williams before assuming office.

“We don’t want someone who just wants to be a police chief,” Bazemore said. “We want someone who wants to be the police chief for Rocky Mount.”

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