About 25 attendees gathered at Elk Grove City Hall on May 21 to offer their suggestions on what qualities and characteristics they would like to see in the city’s new police chief.
City Manager Jason Behrmann is currently seeking the successor of Elk Grove Police Chief Bryan Noblett, who announced his retirement last month. He is leaving the police department in July.
Noblett, who is the third police chief in the city’s history, was selected to serve in that role in 2016 by then-City Manager Laura Gill. He succeeded Robert Lehner who retired.
The May 21 meeting was led by Greg Nelson, vice president of the Rocklin-based public sector search firm, Ralph Anderson & Associates, which has been hired by the city to assist in the recruiting process for Elk Grove’s new police chief.
Nelson’s background includes a 20-year policing career, the last four years of which he served as a police chief for Pekin, Ill. He has been involved in about 15 police chief searches in California and other states.
While standing in front of the meeting’s attendees, Nelson listed community suggestions on a white board as they were presented to him.
Those suggestions included the future chief’s understanding of policing as a social service, a willingness to respond to community concerns, and to conduct public reviews.
One community member at the meeting expressed interest in having a police chief that is female and/or a person of color.
Among those who provided their comments on what type of chief of police they desire was Elk Grove resident Sonja Armour.
“(The police chief should have) sensitivity to community members who have strong opinions and yet fear voicing those opinions, finding ways to open up those channels of communication,” she said. “Secondly, I believe (there should be a) connection with our young people, so that students coming through the school system have a perception of the police department that is positive.
“Thirdly, transparency in the police department in terms of instilling respect for the law in the department, as well as in the community.”
Maureen Craft, who ran for the District 3 City Council seat in 2016 and plans to do the same next year, also provided suggestions.
“(This city is) diverse and we need a police chief who will reflect that (diversity),” she said. “We need somebody who has a vision for Elk Grove, someone who understands a diverse community and someone who understands how to interact with the residents of Elk Grove.”
Craft added that she would also like to have a police chief who has experience in leading diverse cultures, is very accessible to the community, and has the type of experience to make Elk Grove a proactive city.
Jacquelyn Canoose, who volunteers at the local police department and at City Hall, also desires a police chief who can lead a diverse city.
“It’s very important that we have somebody come in as a police chief that will be able to understand our diversity, all cultures, the seniors,” she said.
“I would like to have someone who is very caring about the officers, who take care of them mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, but is someone that they know will be an advocate for them and stand up for them, and to be able to listen to what the people have to say.”
Because the early part of the police chief search involves a lot of listening and learning for Nelson, he noted that the recent public meeting was beneficial with his work toward establishing a group of candidates that he considers the best match for Elk Grove.
Assisting Nelson, who is performing the majority of the work, is a team of professionals who are involved in some of the research in identifying candidates.
Nelson mentioned that, although Behrmann can make the final decision on who will serve as the next police chief at any time, he has chosen to have an extensive approach that involves obtaining input from many people throughout the selection process, which will also include an online survey.
Behrmann has not yet finalized the interview structure, but noted that it will likely include three interview panels: one from the city, one from other police chiefs and technical experts, and one from the community.
Nelson said that last week’s meeting marked the beginning of a 90-day search process.
Once a candidate is selected, that candidate would need to provide a 30- to 60-day notice to their current employer.
However, in the event that Behrmann selects an internal candidate, there would be no transitional period.