Dover police chief search committee takes first cautious steps

Dover City Councilman Roy Sudler speaks during Wednesday’s meeting on the Dover Police chief situation. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — A spirited discussion on finding a new Dover police chief veered into uncharted territory on Wednesday afternoon.

The city has never before enlisted a selection committee or considered candidates nationally; the process still needed smoothing over at the end of the first public session at City Hall.

No job listing has yet been advertised and highly-scrutinized academic qualifications are to be determined. Components of the current requirements could be combined with some outside standards before the final determination is made, according to selection committee discussion.

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, the committee’s chairman, said another meeting should be scheduled for next week as the quest to replace now-retired Chief Paul Bernat continues.

Several times during the session, potential internal candidates Deputy Chief Maj. Marvin Mailey, Capt. Dave Spicer and Capt. Tim Stump were openly discussed, and the trio was among the audience of approximately 30 to 35 at the open meeting.

While City Council President Timothy A. Slavin believed recommending Maj. Mailey as a candidate was within the meeting’s parameters, fellow committee member Councilman James E. Hosfelt commented that “For God sakes, let’s follow the process here once in a while.”

Councilman Roy Sudler wasn’t pleased that he hadn’t heard back from the Human Resources Department regarding some questions and e-mail communications he asked for last week. But, director Kim Hawkins explained that they required examination on how to be handled, with some queries going to Deputy Chief Mailey and others to City Manager Scott Koenig.

Mr. Koenig said the “substantial” nature of some questions would take time and proper staffing to respond to, if applicable, and personal information might not be available.

“We have not had time to process the request,” he said.

Also, the city manager said, contemplating the possibility of an outside candidate added complexity to the process, and changed the dynamic of recruitment.

Adding to the confusion was a draft of a general job description that was erroneously published by the Delaware State News earlier after being submitted by the city for a price quote only. The sample copy included requirements listed by other agencies seeking a police chief and was not intended to be an official document.

Councilman David Anderson did not believe a “massive search” was required, with strong candidates already residing within Dover PD.

Maj. Mailey has overseen the police department as senior officer since Chief Bernat’s departure.

Speaking to the committee, NAACP Central Delaware President La Mar Gunn said, “We’re counting on you to get this right. A mis-step in this process could erase all the positive things done recently (in building community relations.)”

Mr. Gunn said the candidates he knew “want the opportunity to compete for it based on merit” and now have the selection determined by skin color or college degree.

The mayor has targeted the hiring to be complete by the end of April.

Besides Mr. Christiansen, other committee members include Mr. Slavin and Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee Mr. Hosfelt, Mr. Koenig and Ms. Hawkins.

Describing the agency as “well run and well managed” already, former police chief and current councilman James Hutchison said he wanted to hear of candidates with “a vision for community commitment, internally and externally.”

Asking questions

Last weekend via email, Mr. Sudler asked the city clerk’s office to contact the human resources department and request information that would be distributed to all city council members.

Mr. Sudler asked that the HR provide educational backgrounds on Mr. Bernat, Maj. Mailey, Accreditation Manager and Crime Analyst Rob Scott, Capt. Stump and Capt. Spicer.

Also, the councilman sought Dover PD age entry requirements for recruitment and hiring of new officers, and chief of police policy regulations through the HR department, along with the PD’s qualification requirements and regulations.

The councilman asked for all emails sent to Ms. Hawkins regarding the police chief’s position within the past six months, along with any related emails between Mayor Christiansen, Ms. Hawkins, Public Affairs and Emergency Management Coordinator Kay Sass, Mr. Bernat, Capt. Spicer, Capt. Stump, Mr. Scott, and Maj. Mailey regarding the chief of police vacant position.

The police switch of command sparked controversy in 2014, when the city paid five high-ranking officers a combined $300,000 after city council expressed concern about possible racial discrimination during the promotion process.

While then-Chief Bernat selected Maj. Mailey — an African-American — as his second in charge, council was concerned that former Major Carleton E. Cary may have unduly influenced the selection and opened the city up to potential civil liability. Mr. Carey denied the allegations and resigned shortly afterward.

Four officers in the settlement were white, and a fifth bi-racial.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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