Dover police chief hiring process altered

DOVER — Police chiefs will now be chosen by a special selection committee after council approved a change in the city charter Monday night.

Currently, under the city’s charter, the mayor is responsible for selecting a new chief of police when the position becomes vacant.

However, under the change a police chief selection committee will be comprised of the mayor, council president, chairman of the safety advisory and transportation committee, city manager and human resources director.

The committee will advise the mayor on the nomination of the police chief.

The mayor will then make the nomination, but the appointment will be effective only upon confirmation by the city council.

In addition, the chief of police will be subject to removal at any time by the mayor, with the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to the city council. The chief would be able to appoint the deputy chief.

“It avoids dealings that may have occurred during the previous process,” Mayor Robin Christiansen said. “It should guarantee to the public that we’re hiring the most qualified candidate for the position.”

Last year, Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. resigned amid allegations that he put pressure on his newly appointed Police

Chief Paul Bernat to appoint Lt. Marvin Mailey, an African-American, as the new deputy chief.

Five officers filed grievances, asserting they had been passed over for promotion because they were white. The city paid out $300,000 in settlements.

Mr. Carey denied the allegations and said he didn’t have any influence in the selection of the city’s deputy chief of police.

Councilman James Hutchison, who served as the city’s first full-time mayor from 1994 to 2004 and was the city’s police chief for four years, likes the idea of having a selection committee.

James Hutchison

James Hutchison

“It brings everyone together,” he said. “I think that’s important to the process. I like the fact there will be a committee. They will go through an interview process where all of us can come together to make a decision.”
Council also amended to remove the requirement that the police chief be selected from within the police department.

“I like the idea,” Councilman Hutchison said. “We’re a growing city. Over the years we’ve been fortunate to have a strong selection of candidates to pick from.

“The police department is outstanding. This just opens the door for us to explore all options.”

The change also expands the use of the cadet program beyond the downtown area.

The cadet program was approved by city council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee last December after being recommended by Chief Bernat.

The program already has started, as the cadets, age 18 and older, carry standard police equipment including pepper spray, handcuffs and stun guns.

They will not carry handguns, but they will be authorized to make arrests and issue criminal summonses.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. asked about the limitations of the cadets within the city during Monday night’s meeting.

Chief Bernat said the cadets will be placed anywhere they will be useful, which will include some of the city’s parks as well as downtown.

In other business, council also approved a zoning change regarding property once owned by the late Muriel Schwartz, a pioneer theater owner and Dover civic leader, during Monday night’s meeting.

Currently 801 N. State St. is zoned RG-3, which allows group housing. Gold Coast LLC applied for a change to C-2A, meaning it would be zoned as limited central commercial.

Council agreed that the requested zoning is consistent with other properties in the area that front on North State Street. Additionally the rezoning is consistent with the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, which was amended on April 13.
Council also agreed on rezoning properties at 605, 625, 635, 645 and 655 Bay Road and 400 Haslet St.

The properties are owned by Blue Hen Mall LLC, Read Street LLC and Blue Hen Apt LLC.

The rezoning change will allow additional apartment buildings on the east portion of the site and to bring the remaining shopping center area into compliance with the minimum land area requirement.

 

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