Racial politics playing role in search for new police chief

Dover resident George Gaudioso speaks to the committee during the Police Chief Selection Committee at Dover City Hall on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The first meeting of the Dover Police Chief Selection Committee went much deeper than normal administrative procedures Wednesday, with sometimes contentious statements between panel members and criticism about the process from citizens.

A crowd of 25 to 30 people that gathered in council chambers at City Hall showed the ramped-up interest level that includes racial undertones since the city has never had an African American police chief.

Maj. Marvin Mailey, the acting Dover police chief and one of the candidates for the position, is African American.

Several members of the community took the opportunity to make public comments to the selection committee, which includes Mayor Robin R. Christiansen and four other city officials.

City Council President Timothy A. Slavin, who is a member of the selection committee, made an unfulfilled motion near the end of the meeting that the committee recommend Deputy Chief Mailey be named chief of police.

“I am deeply disappointed that when we as a city are faced with a qualified and experienced and proven minority candidate for the position of chief of police, we have to convince ourselves that it’s OK to hire a minority,” Mr. Slavin said. “I’m sorry, but that’s the perception that many people see and many people have brought to me and that I agree with.

“(Mailey) could have been appointed and we could have congratulated him. His hiring would have the added benefit of healing relations with our African-American community, which have been strained for the past 20 years.”

City Councilman James E. Hosfelt Jr. accused Mr. Slavin of “grandstanding.”

“In 2015, we voted as a group to come up with a selection process,” said Mr. Hosfelt, a former Dover police chief. “That’s what we are trying to do now. For some of our state legislatures, to now our council president, and some others to grandstand at a perfect opportunity to do this I think is detrimental to the process.

“Whether it’s right or wrong, we voted as a unanimous body to go through a selection process. We have three people sitting in the audience now who would make outstanding police chiefs. We’d love to see any of them get it [Mailey and police captains Dave Spicer and Tim Stump], but we have a selection process.”

The back-and-forth between committee members and some members of city council in attendance frustrated some in the audience.

George Gaudioso said he left the meeting “disgusted” with what he had watched transpire over the two-hour meeting.

“When I came to this meeting I was actually hopeful that this could be done properly,” Mr. Gaudioso said. “This committee was established to make a determination to set up the criteria and make recommendations to the mayor, who then would present them to the council.

“… [T]hat sounds so easy. Sitting here listening to this banter going back and forth … to me it’s nothing but a bunch of bull—-. I’m embarrassed. I am absolutely embarrassed by what’s taken place here.”

Mr. Gaudioso, who spoke twice at the meeting, added, “I think you’re making a major mistake if you move an individual forward without giving other individuals, and I don’t care who they are, the opportunity for the same kind of consideration.”

No matter where one sat at Wednesday’s meeting, whether in the committee or in a seat in the audience, the subject of selecting Dover’s next police chief certainly stirred plenty of passion.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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