Chief search narrowed down to four

By: By Chris Berendt -

The City of Clinton is engaged in its own kind of March Madness, as the search for the next chief for the Clinton Police Department has been narrowed to the final four. That group is set to undergo an assessment center next week from which city officials hope the department’s new leader will be chosen.

“We have narrowed our (police department) chief search to four candidates that will be here the March 28-29,” City manager Shawn Purvis confirmed Monday. The city received 27 applications for the position, which is being vacated by the retirement of current chief Jay Tilley.

“While we would have liked a larger pool of candidates, we are pleased with the strength of those that did apply,” Purvis noted. “The four semi-finalist all have strong backgrounds and have been involved in police administration for a number of years.”

The city manager said more information will be able to be disclosed as the city gets closer to making a hire. He declined to say whether there is a local candidate, possibly someone already working with the department, in the mix.

“At this point, I cannot say one way or another whether there is an internal candidate,” he stated.

At the beginning of January, Tilley announced that he would be leaving in four months, extended notice to allow for him to assist city managerial staff, as needed, through the process of finding his successor.

The City Council approved a contract with Developmental Associates LLC, not to exceed $17,725, for their services in a police chief hiring assessment. The next police chief will be hired through the same process that Tilley and the city’s current fire chief Scott Phillips were selected. Developmental Associates was the firm that assisted the city in both of those hires.

Purvis has said that comprehensive hiring process, used in several other hires by the city in recent years, is the best avenue.

“It’s a very crucial position and we want to show the public that we’re doing everything we can to find the best person for that job,” Purvis said. “Developmental Associates has a strong reputation in hiring public safety positions throughout the state.”

The multi-step hiring process included an initial community focus group, which, along with Council members, Purvis and department heads, gave their input on potential traits that should be present in a police chief.

The application window extended through the end of February. This month, those applicants were reviewed, with the number of candidates whittled down to a select few.

The March 28-29 assessment center is the next step. It includes comprehensive discussions and interviews with candidates, as well as simulations of a wealth of real-life managerial scenarios that will come along with the position. There will be a writing exercises, as well as those that gauge technical expertise, communication skills, interpersonal interaction and knowledge of the job as a whole.

That is assessed in a variety of ways, from role-play activities to community presentations and other exercises specifically designed for the City of Clinton.

“That is where Developmental Associates is key,” Purvis noted. “It is not cookie cutter. It is crafted specifically for us.”

There will be three or four assessors evaluating candidates. They will be peers, members of the community and others with law enforcement experience, often former police chiefs or those from other jurisdictions. Once the assessment center is completed at the end of March, the results will be reviewed and an offer made to the top candidate.

Tilley has served as Clinton’s police chief since September 2012. A self-professed “career law enforcement officer,” he came to the Clinton Police Department as captain in 2009 before taking over for Chief Mike Brim three years later. Tilley’s last day is April 30, and Purvis will be departing for a new job before then, so there is a tight window to select the chief and have him in place.

While it is a tight timeline, Purvis has shared that he does not see an interim police chief position filling the void. He said time taken during the hiring process now — the city has been at it since Tilley’s announcement at the beginning of the year — will be beneficial in the long run.

“It takes time to do it right and for you to identify what you’re looking for and what’s best for you,” he stated.

By Chris Berendt

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.