Panelists who helped evaluate the five finalists in the running to become Bainbridge Island's new police chief said they were impressed by the candidates and the city's process for finding its next top cop.
City Manager Doug Schulze is expected to announce his decision on the new police chief later this week. The five finalists visited Bainbridge last Thursday, first, for an introductory gathering with the rank-and-file at the police department, and then, for a meet-and-greet with the community.
On Friday, the five candidates were grilled by four separate panels. The groups — a panel of law enforcement professionals, an intergovernmental agencies panel, a citizens panel and a management team panel made up of directors and managers from city hall — asked the candidates questions from a prepared list and noted the strengths and weaknesses of the finalists.
Five candidates were culled from more than 50 applicants for the job of police chief. The finalists are Lt. Richard Daniels, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Harry Glidden, Aurora Police Department, Aurora, Colo.; Lt. Richard Goerling, Hillsboro Police Department, Hillsboro, Ore.; Major Matthew Hamner, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis, Ind.; and Bryce Johnson, Salt Lake City Police Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Lynda McMaken, a civil service commissioner for Bainbridge Island who sat on the citizens panel, said all of the finalists were impressive.
"I think any one of the candidates would do a great job," she said. "I don't think any would be a mistake."
McMaken also praised the review process set up by the city manager. A diverse group of people and interests were represented, and each panel spent an hour each with every candidate.
"It wasn't nearly as cut-and-dried as I had expected it to be. I was very impressed with the way that Doug [Schulze] had put together the process and selected the interview teams," she said.
Each member of her panel was given a binder broken up into sections for each candidate that included resumes and question sheets.
"It included a list of questions covering a range of things, from how they would handle things professionally, to 'What was your best day on the job?' and 'What was your worst day on the job?'"
The worst days for some were truly terrible, McMaken added.
"These men have seen their friends murdered in the line of duty," she said.
Her panel posed 12 questions, and the responses were quite different.
McMaken said one candidate gave concise, single-sentence answers, while another spoke in abstractions with plenty of academic references.
The questions were open-ended, she said.
"They really showed the personality and management style of the candidates when they answered," she said.
Afterward, the panels did not rate or rank the finalists against each other.
McMaken said her group provided four different points of view, and they did not try to come to any consensus on how the candidates fared.
"At the end of it, we didn't say, 'I don't know, who do you think?'"
Assistant Chief Luke Carpenter of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department said Schulze and the executive search team that came up with the finalists did a good job of bringing in a broad spectrum of candidates.
"Which is good. You have the ability for people to rise and fall. You don't want all of one type of candidate," Carpenter said.
While all of the finalists have law enforcement backgrounds, Carpenter said, their educational backgrounds are different, as are their experiences, from small city to big city to regional departments.
Carpenter said his panel talked amongst themselves, and shared what they had heard the finalists say during their interviews.
"We bounced thoughts and opinions off of each other for validation," he said.
Carpenter, who was part of a panel years ago that interviewed former chief Jon Fehlman before he was hired by the city, said he was glad it wasn't him sitting as a candidate through panel interview after panel interview.
"It was a long day for those guys," Carpenter said.
"I think the city's made a good effort to expose the candidates to the community," he said, adding that Schulze now has the feedback from the panels before he makes a hiring decision.
"Hopefully the cream will float to the top," Carpenter said.
John DeMeyer, recreation services director for the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, said there were clear differences between the candidates.
"We did actually get a pretty good sense of who they were," DeMeyer said.
"They had a really good field of folks — high caliber candidates," he said.
McMaken said it was refreshing to talk with people anxious to become a part of the Bainbridge community.
"We've had so many people disparage Bainbridge; 'Nobody's going to want to work here.' But people do want to work here. Really good people want to work here," McMaken said. "And people want to work here understanding that we are growing and changing and need help.
"They're not biased against us," she said. "We're still a young city, and they look at us as a growing city."
Members of the panel said they, like the rest of Bainbridge, would wait for the hiring decision to be announced. That's expected by the end of the week.
"Hopefully, we'll see some white smoke soon," DeMeyer joked.