Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Most happy with police chief finalists

Citizen Staff Writer



The five candidates for Tucson’s chief of police job met with community leaders in two forums Tuesday.

The position opened last summer when then-Chief Richard Miranda retired to become an assistant city manager.

The five candidates each praised his competitors during the forums, saying that any one of them could handle the job well.

Also, each of the candidates said he supported such things as community-based policing, sensitivity to minority members and their needs, involvement with community groups and respect for diversity and civil protesters’ rights to demonstrate without being harassed by police.

The candidates are:

• Tucson Assistant Chief John Leavitt, in charge of the Administrative Services Bureau.

• Tucson Capt. Brett Klein, head of the west side patrol division.

• Blake McClelland, assistant chief of police for patrol operations, north division, Phoenix Police Department.

• Joseph Curreri, Captain III, area commanding officer, Foothill Area, Los Angeles Police Department.

• Mark Paresi, retired chief of police for the North Las Vegas Police Department.

McClelland said that while he favored having some officers certified to enforce immigration law, it should only be used in major investigations with an immigration connection. He said he opposes using city police for routine enforcement of immigration law.

Klein, speaking on racial profiling, said Tucson police do not do it. “It is strictly prohibited,” he said.

Paresi said he has taught community police techniques for 25 years and that “community policing is democracy at its highest level” in that it is “the opportunity for citizens to get involved in problem solving.”

Leavitt, who was born and raised in Tucson, said he sees the role of police as that of “preserving justice.”

He said if he is picked as the city’s next police chief he will make a strong effort to make sure every segment of the community is treated fairly by the police and is equally represented by police.

Curreri said he sees gangs and drugs as the major crime issues facing the city and the Police Department.

Among the strategies he would use against gangsters and drug dealers would be to gather criminal intelligence to identify them and learn of their criminal plans.

But, Curreri said he also saw a need to create among police officers a multicultural awareness.

The forums were from 8 to 11:30 a.m. at the city’s Patrick K. Hardesty Midtown Multi-Service Center, 1100 S. Alvernon Way.

Many of the questions, submitted in writing in advance of the forums, dealt with issues such as racial profiling and sensitivity to minority members of the community. Some questions asked about community based policing, a philosophy that stresses community involvement, such as meeting with community leaders and neighborhood members to learn what problems they would like police to address.

No questions were taken from the audience of some 15 to 20 people after either forum.

Immediately after the second forum the candidates were ushered out of the meeting room on their way to a meeting with city employee groups, including members of the Tucson Police Officers Association, the police union.

Officer Larry Lopez, the union’s president, attended the forums.

Afterward he said the union was not endorsing any candidate.

“We want the strongest, we want the best, we’re looking, but we’re being very open,” Lopez said.

Miranda, who also attended the forums, declined to say what his opinion of the candidates was or whether he saw a front-runner emerging from the group.

“I thought four out of the five were really excellent, said Pam Liberty, with Tucson’s Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender Commission. She would not say which one she thought was not excellent.

“I thought we had five excellent candidates,” said Jerry Schuchardt, chairman of the nonprofit Tucson Police Foundation, a police support organization.

Neither thought there was a problem at TPD that required bringing in a new chief from outside the department.

Liberty said she thinks TPD is a highly respected police department and she recommended hiring a chief from within the police ranks.

While he believes there is no need to hire an outsider, Schuchardt said, “From time to time you need to bring someone in from the outside,” if only to provide a fresh perspective.

A new chief is expected to be named within about a month.

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