A new police chief has yet to report for duty as of our print deadline Tuesday, despite city manager Rob Hillard’s hope the position would be filled in September.
Oberlin’s police department has been without a chief for almost a year. Clarence “Ryan” Warfield, a sergeant from Elyria, was set to fill the vacant position last week but has faced delays and resistance.
During a council meeting Oct. 16, Hillard said the city is still going through a background check and that “it just takes time.”
The next step is salary negotiation and deciding a start date, he said.
Listening sessions were held with community members, business owners, and police officers. “The process revealed the desired characteristics of the next chief of police accurately in my opinion,” Hillard told council.
But three Oberlin police sergeants — Patrick Durica, Melissa Lett and Steve Chapman — feel differently.
They sent a letter to council earlier this month calling Warfield the “least qualified candidate” for the job.
The sergeants questioned whether the hiring process was “fair and equal to all candidates,” saying police were excluded from the appointment process. Chapman said the only way police department employees found out about the new chief was through the media.
Warfield does not meet the minimum qualifications sought by the city for the position, “which is a cause for concern when the chief inherently has such a vital role,” the sergeants claim.
Cited in the letter were his documented discipline from the Elyria police department and “questionable financial history.” The county common pleas court records show a number of foreclosure cases.
The letter insinuates Warfield would not qualify for an entry level position at the Oberlin police department and said choosing him over the internal candidates Lt. Michael McCloskey and Sgt. Victor Ortiz “detrimentally (affects) the morale and career aspirations of those individuals who have already dedicated themselves to the city of Oberlin.”
“An external chief eliminates any possible promotional opportunities for those individuals who wish to excel and advance in their profession, which in turn creates unmotivated employees.”
They said two interview panelists worked with Warfield in Elyria and a third was a personal reference for him.
Chapman said the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents the sergeants, will be reaching out to Hillard to “discuss the flaws in the hiring process.”
He said there has been no contact from Hillard on the matter, even after the sergeants met with human resources administrator Rosalind Watson and expressed their concerns.
“She stated that she would notify the city manager. That was over a month ago and as of (Oct. 20), we have heard nothing back from him,” he said.
Warfield was Hillard’s choice from a pool of seven finalists and 16 applicants who all hailed from Ohio departments.
“Warfield has a complete understanding of police training and experience and understands the unique nature and culture of Oberlin,” Hillard said previously.
McCloskey served as interim chief since December when former chief Juan Torres resigned suddenly after 15 months due to a family member’s illness.
Since 1994, Warfield has served the city of Elyria and was formerly a police academy instructor specializing in defense tactics such as krav maga.
As a detective, he led investigations for four years on several high-profile criminal cases including homicides, assaults, sex crimes, and close work with the Lorain County Drug Task Force.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.