Search is narrowing for Henderson chief of police

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 10:49 PM

Five candidates for the job of Henderson police chief finished exercises in an assessment center on Friday.

After a thorough review of responses, city manager Ray Griffin will either cut the field to two finalists or move forward with a job offer. Griffin said candidates were assured confidentiality in the application process and he did not disclose names of the finalists.

“I am very pleased that we had five excellent candidates for our consideration,” Griffin said. “The assessment center process went extremely well. The task now is to sift through the data that has come out of the assessment center so we can make as good a decision as possible on our next step.”

Henderson is searching for the successor to Keith Sidwell, who retired May 31. Capt. Marcus Barrow is serving as interim chief.

Griffin is next meeting with Becky Veazey, president of Management and Personnel Services Group of Raleigh. Veazey’s MAPS group helped bring together the assessment center, which included 10 assessors and seven community representatives from Henderson.

Also participating were Griffin, city clerk Esther McCrackin and human resources director Cathy Brown, for a total of 20. All signed agreements of confidentiality.

“The assessment center process was designed to help me get to know the candidates better, and to utilize a team of experts and community representatives to provide feedback and look at candidates from multiple dimensions,” Griffin said. “That has occurred.

“I am back from a debriefing from the assessors. I will go through their responses and determine what our next step will be.”

Griffin described the three days as intense, moving quickly and exhausting, but very productive to the hiring process.

Griffin was asked if any candidates were from Henderson and he would only offer “yes” with no details of who or how many.

In Henderson’s council-manager form of government, Griffin has sole authority for hiring and firing the police chief. When the vacancy developed, he said he hoped to move through a process that would include the assessment center this month and perhaps a job offer before the end of the calendar year.

Late Friday, he left the door open for a slight change.

“As we were developing the final throes of the assessment center, it became clear that we might have a fourth assessment center exercise the first of January,” Griffin said. “That depends upon the decision-making we go through over the weekend.”

Griffin plans to meet with Veazey today.

“I’m hoping by the first of the week I’ll have a more clear direction of what the next step will be,” Griffin said. “We have due diligence to do on the final candidates or two. We’ve got to go through those scenarios at the top of our list the first of next week.”

The department includes 52 sworn officers, eight civilian staff and 17 part-time positions. The salary range is $65,000 to $85,000 dependent on qualifications, with full range going to $98,000.

Sidwell’s departing salary was $72,495.

Applications were accepted for about a month, closing Oct. 25. The job posting was available nationwide through various websites with high traffic for leaders in law enforcement, with an emphasis in the state and southeast region.

In September, the team with MAPS engaged in dialogue with current members of the police department, the City Council and an open session with the public that attracted nearly 40.

In each setting, participants could offer what they thought were priorities to be found in the next chief.

The community suggestions were topped by community policing, long-term and heart-felt personal commitment to Henderson and style of management. Also near the top of the list were working well with economically depressed areas and low-income populations.

The City Council’s priorities were connection with the community, friendly command presence, ability to disagree without holding any grudges, well-versed in professional law enforcement, people person and possessing training for sensitivity in dealing with lower-income communities.

“I think it is going at a good pace,” Griffin said. “And, I think the assessment center went very well. We had a very good week. We had very good people working with us on this process.”

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.