Portland manager says police chief candidates to be run through gauntlet of tests

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 5:21 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 14, 2011, at 5:12 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — City Manager Mark Rees on Tuesday unveiled his plans to launch a search for the next police chief in Maine’s largest city, a process he said will include the introduction of an “Assessment Center” that puts top candidates through a series of tactical, simulation and problem-solving exercises.

“As with all high-profile positions responsible for core city operations, it is important that we have a competitive process that imbues confidence and trust from the public and the city’s work force,” Rees said in a statement, “and I am confident that this search process will lead the city to a well-qualified, experienced police chief.”

According to an announcement issued by the city Tuesday night, Rees told the Public Safety Committee about his strategy to select Portland’s next top cop.

The city’s previous police chief, James Craig, took a job heading the Cincinnati (Ohio) Police Department starting on Aug. 2. Since his departure, Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck has served as the interim chief.

The city is slated to begin advertising the position through local and national outlets and industry organizations by Sept. 26, and all applications will be due by the end of business on Oct. 28.

Rees said the list of applicants would be pared down to a slate of top candidates through an “internal review of applications and preliminary phone interviews” to be completed by mid-December. Those chosen will be invited to Portland for interviews with community members, city staff and union leaders, Tuesday’s city announcement said.

The initial round of interviews will whittle the list further to a group of finalists whom Rees will interview and put through a series of exercises to be evaluated by the Assessment Center. The center will grade candidates in at least 10 exercises meant to gauge the prospective chiefs’ management skills and problem-solving capabilities, among other things.

“Having led a number of police chief searches in other communities, I can appreciate the important role an Assessment Center can have in this search,” stated Rees. “The testing, exercises and evaluation give you a perspective that you would not otherwise get and it’s an important step to ensuring that the final candidate has the skills, expertise and fortitude to be Portland’s police chief.”

Rees said he hopes to name a permanent police chief by early 2012.

Portland writer Seth Koenig may be reached at skoenig@bangordailynews.com.

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