Sixteen applicants will be considered for Oberlin’s new chief of police.
“It’s a good pool,” said city manager Rob Hillard, who wants to make a hire by the end of the summer.
A panel, which includes members with a deep understanding of law enforcement, is reviewing the applications and aims to know by the end of the month who will be called for interviews.
Hillard will ultimately choose the new police chief. He has not mapped out how finalists will be chosen or to what extent the community will be involved in the final decision.
In February and March, the city manager met with a number of focus groups — about 180 people in all — to ask what qualities they want in a police chief. Sessions were held at Kendal at Oberlin, Wilder Hall, the Oberlin Public Library, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and the police station.
Some common themes emerged.
People want a chief who appreciates diversity, has experience, and will be an agent of change. They want someone who will make police officers more visible. And they prefer someone who lives in Oberlin, though it’s worth noting the Ohio Supreme Court has struck down residency requirements for municipal employees.
According to those involved in the talks, the ideal candidate is someone who:
• Builds relationships with community members, listening to their feelings, encouraging a culture of trust, and demonstrating respect for those who live and work in Oberlin. This also proved to be the top priority for Hillard: “The key to this process is building relationships,” he said.
• Will provide regular training for officers, especially on the concept of implicit bias, which entails the often-subconscious prejudices all people have toward one another.
• Understands the unique relationship the city and Oberlin College share.
• Is sensitive to different cultures within the community.
• Will promote positive interactions with young Oberlin residents.
• Understands complex and controversial policing issues that affect the entire nation, such as immigration and helping people with mental illness.
• Explore modern approaches to law enforcement.
Police officers also gave feedback on what they want in a chief.
They are looking for stability, someone who will commit to long-term leadership. They pointed to internal candidates for the job.
Officers also suggested the new chief should evaluate the police department’s organizational structure.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.