SLO's still looking for its next police chief



The city of SLO is still in the early phases of finding a new police chief and is currently gathering input from city officials and the public to determine just what they want from SLO’s next top cop.

July 21 marked the final day for residents to participate in an online survey that sought public input on the issue. The survey was short—five questions long—and included open-ended questions such as “What type of experience and/or accomplishments would you like the new Police Chief to have in his/her professional history?” and “What would you like potential candidates to know about your community?”

The survey’s just one facet of a lengthy, multi-step hiring process. According to Nickole Sutter, a human resources analyst for the city, much of the process will be in the hands of Roberts Consulting Group. Roberts, an executive recruitment firm, is conducting focus groups with City Council members, department heads, police department employees, and others. 

“After receiving input, RCG will complete a recruitment brochure that summarizes the desired qualifications and characteristics for the ideal candidate,” Sutter wrote in an email to New Times.

Once the firm lays out what the city is looking for, it will search for potential candidates. Sutter said the tentative deadline for job seekers to submit résumés is Sept. 8, and the firm plans to meet with the city to narrow those down by the end of September. 

That group of potential candidates will then be invited to “the assessment center,” the term Sutter used to describe the two-day interview process the city uses to hire top department executives. In the past, the first day usually consisted of meeting with various officials and department heads and a tour of the city, followed by a second day of formal interviews with multiple panels of city officials, community members, and professional experts. 

“During the wrap-up, all of the panels come together and force rank the candidates,” Sutter wrote. “The final candidates then proceed to second interviews with the city manager and possibly a group interview with other selected employees.”

The city’s former chief, Steven Gesell, was ousted from his position in May after roughly three years on the job. Gesell initially was placed on paid administrative leave May 8. Official statements indicated Gesell’s ousting might have been caused by a deteriorating working relationship with SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig. The SLO City Council later approved an agreement with Gesell for a $120,000 severance package. Gesell was officially out of the job by the end of May.

The final decision on who will be the next SLOPD chief rests on Litchtig, who has the authority to hire all department head positions. In the meantime, Cpt. Chris Staley is serving as the SLO Police Department’s interim chief.

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