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Tucson police chief search to start over

Pick to come from within department; Hein won’t say why

Seven hours of closed City Council talks Tuesday quashed a national selection effort for the city’s next police chief.

The pool had been narrowed to four over several days of interviews and public panel discussions.

The next search will be limited to officers from within the Tucson Police Department, City Manager Mike Hein said in a news release Wednesday evening.

The release was sent at 4:54 p.m. and contained no reason for the change in the recruitment process.

Neither Hein nor former police chief and current Assistant City Manager Richard Miranda was available for comment during the day or after the release was sent.

Hein also sent a memo to council aides Wednesday evening that said, “It is because of the excellent reputation earned by all the dedicated men and women of the department” that an internal search will begin.

Under the city charter, the city manager must recommend a candidate to the City Council for approval.

Tucson Director of Human Resources Cindy Bezaury confirmed the halt Wednesday but denied it was because there were discrepancies in advertised criteria for the position, which two sources told the Citizen was the reason the selection was called off.

The job opening was posted on the city’s Web site and on several police-affiliated Web sites, but the minimum criteria differed and could have led to a legal challenge after a chief was selected, the Citizen was told by two independent sources.

One of the alleged discrepancies involved whether a bachelor’s degree was required. One candidate, TPD Capt. Brett Klein, expects to earn his degree this summer, according to his résumé.

The sources spoke under condition of anonymity. It is Citizen policy not to use unnamed sources unless there is an overriding public interest.

Bezaury would not discuss the new process or why the previous one ended, citing the confidentiality of the closed council session.

Most council members also declined to comment, citing the closed session.

Councilwoman Shirley Scott said that although questions about the ads arose during Tuesday’s talks, they were not the reason the recruitment ended.

“There were a lot of interviews done by a lot of panels for these candidates, and the bottom line is they were all good, sound candidates,” she said. “There was no one person who rose to the top of the heap in all of those interviews, and that seemed to us significant.”

She said the council would consider exempting a requirement that department heads live within city limits for candidates who come forward in the internal search.

TPD’s Klein and Assistant Chief John Leavitt, two of the four finalists, are welcome to reapply, she said. Hein had said he hoped to have a candidate in place by May, when current Chief Kermit Miller retires.

The timeline for the new recruitment process was unclear Wednesday. So was the cost of the selection to date.

Jerry Schuchardt, chairman of the Tucson Police Foundation board, expressed concern Wednesday that the department may be without a chief while it struggles with budget and manpower shortfalls. He confirmed information the Citizen was told about problems in the recruitment process.

None of the candidates – Klein, Leavitt, former North Las Vegas Police Chief Mark Paresi and Phoenix police assistant chief Blake McClelland – would comment on the process Wednesday, but Paresi said he was “notified.”

Police union President Larry Lopez did not immediately return calls or pages. He said in an interview last week that he was dissatisfied with the recruitment process.

Lopez said he had sent union representatives to investigate the credentials and past of each of the candidates and was looking into the process itself.

Miller has led the department since Miranda retired in June 2008 and was hired as assistant city manager. Miranda had served as police chief since 1998.

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