By TOM MOOR
South Bend Tribune
9:35 PM EST, December 6, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- As the search for the city's next police chief nears its conclusion, leaders on the South Bend Common Council are expressing frustration with how it has been conducted.
The finalists to become the police chief will likely be announced next week at a news conference, the mayor's office announced Wednesday. From there, they will spend time in the community and with Mayor Pete Buttigieg before a hire is made, likely by the end of the year.
Both Common Council President Derek Dieter and Vice President Oliver Davis reported Thursday that they've heard three finalists will be named, and none is an internal candidate. Buttigieg has said he was launching a nationwide search and looking at both internal and external candidates.
The mayor's office declined to release any specifics about the search until the news conference.
The councilmen are not only concerned about an external candidate being hired, but are troubled that not even a single South Bend police officer is listed as a finalist, according to their knowledge.
"It says something must be wrong in the city and with its police department," Davis said. "Having a finalist sends a message that we've got some good people."
"It says out of everyone -- 262 officers -- not one of them is qualified," added Dieter, who also serves as a police officer. "It sends a horrible message. The leaders are saying that no one here can lead us. The officers have put in blood, sweat, tears, their lives on the line. They go out every day. ... The mayor came in and all that doesn't mean anything."
Davis said he hopes the administration changes its mind and at least names one internal candidate as a finalist.
"It's a bad signal to the police department," he said.
Dieter wonders about the level of trust an outside candidate would be given. The city has not hired a chief from outside since 1939.
Dieter also wondered why 98 officers have taken part in the Police Executive Leadership Academy (PELA) since 2003. The four-week school consists of 160 hours and has cost the city a minimum of $100,000, he said. Other officers have taken part in an FBI Training Academy and Leadership program and others in the Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command, a 10-week intensive course that has cost the department a minimum of $35,000.
"Sending the officer was for nought," Dieter said. "We've invested a lot of taxpayer dollars to training our police officers to reach that level. So the conclusion would be the mayor doesn't think that training was worth it, or all the officers who train hoping to ascend to the police chief job just got a punch in the stomach."
Buttigieg lured Chuck Hurley out of retirement to serve as interim chief on March 31, after former chief Darryl Boykins was demoted because of a federal investigation into the department's practice of recording phone lines.
Dieter and Davis both said the aftermath of the investigation has not been handled well and added the search has gone on far too long. They note that there has been little transparency regarding the search other than a meeting in August with Robert Wasserman, whose firm, Massachusetts-based Strategic Policy Partnership, launched the national search.
"It's been too long," Dieter said. "Once Darryl was demoted in March, they should have started the process then and steadied the ship."
Neither councilman said he knows how many people applied for the position.
Mike Schmuhl, the mayor's chief of staff, said Dieter has met with a search representative and attended a town hall meeting regarding the search.
Schmuhl declined to release other details of the search until next week, including how many finalists will be named.
At next week's news conference, Schmuhl said the mayor will outline the process to date, including the involvement the community had in it. He said there has been a community advisory committee that helped the city with the process.
"It was professional and diverse," he said.
Schmuhl also credited the job Hurley has done.
"Chuck Hurley wants to play golf and hang out with his grandchildren, and we want to help him get there," Schmuhl said. "He's been a stabilizing force for the department and a leader and has done a good job."
Hurley declined to comment, saying he felt it would be inappropriate to comment on the mayor's search.
Staff writer Tom Moor:
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