Now that 55 applicants have been pared to two solid finalists -- and one maybe -- who all work outside the state, Cape Girardeau's next police chief isn't likely to come from within the ranks of the city police department, city manager Scott Meyer said Sunday.
Of the two candidates solidly in contention, Meyer would say only that they were from departments outside of Missouri. But Cape Girardeau Police Officers Association president Bill Bohnert confirmed for the Southeast Missourian that one candidate works for the Chicago Police Department and the other works for a department in a south-central Nebraska city of about 50,000 people.
The city manager hopes to announce his choice to replace former chief Carl Kinnison within the next 60 days, he said.
But Meyer was quick to note that it was not by design that no current Cape Girardeau officers are on the list. Kinnison retired from the position Aug. 1 to take over the Law Enforcement Academy at Southeast Missouri State University.
Assistant chief Roger Fields was the only known local officer interested in the job and he withdrew his candidacy last fall. Meyer was not sure as to Fields' reasons.
One way an internal candidate would still get a shot, Meyer said, is if Meyer opts to scratch the list and start over. That isn't an impossibility, he said, considering he isn't thrilled at having such a small number from which to choose.
"I would have liked to have had a larger field to choose from," Meyer said. "You like to have a few more people to contrast. But, overall, we're pretty pleased. The candidates we have left have a breadth of experience that we were looking for."
Meyer and a search committee -- made up of assistant city manager Heather Brooks, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce executive John Mehner and police officer Jeff Bonham -- originally had four finalists, he said. One withdrew unexpectedly and without explanation, Meyer said. A second, still considered in the running, has had a scheduling conflict that has prevented him from making it to Cape Girardeau for preliminary interviews. But that candidate may be discarded if arrangements can't be made soon, the city manager said.
Another way the city would restart, Meyer said, is if the chief he zeros in on -- and the decision is his alone, under Cape Girardeau's council-manager form of government -- doesn't survive the extensive background checks that are required, he said.
Still, Meyer said he wasn't pulling for an external or internal candidate. They committee is just looking for the best person for the job.
"There are pluses and minuses to having someone new take over the department," Meyer said. "Somebody from the outside has to come in and learn about how the department works. They may not understand the culture and how things fit in the organization. They also may bring a fresh approach and a different perspective."
The new chief, who will make about $77,000 a year, will take over the department of 76 sworn officers, 18 civilian staff and police reserves. The department has a $6.5 million operating budget.
Meyer said he plans to privately select one candidate within the next 30 days, which will set off a series of background checks. If the candidate survives those, Meyer said, he hopes to make his decision public about a month after that.
Bohnert said that the association was largely left out of the selection process. By the time the association was called in, Bohnert said, Brooks said the 55 candidates had already been reduced to seven. The candidates that remain may have been well qualified, Bohnert said, but the association's officers wouldn't know it.
"We just didn't get any input at all," said Bohnert, an officer for nearly three decades. "I don't think they really tried to get us involved at all. It seems like what we say falls on deaf ears."
Even when the association was brought in at a late date, Bohnert said, they weren't able to ask the candidates their names. Without knowing an officer's background, the association has no idea what it's getting.
Meyer, for his part, defended the input he gathered. A police officer was placed on the search committee, he said. They met with several officers and the association, he said.
"I'm disappointed that they feel like they didn't have input," Meyer said. "We listened and we talked to them. I really feel like we reached out."
40 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.