Public Sector Search & Consulting President/CEO Gary Peterson selected to lead the recruiting efforts for the next police chief for Metro Nashville Police Department
Chief Anderson to be out by the end of October, Nashville mayor’s candidate search timeline says
Mariah Timms Nashville Tennessean
1:12 pm CT July 28, 2020
Nashville’s police chief will be out by October, according to a new timeline released by Mayor John Cooper on Tuesday.
The announcement offers the clearest details yet on Steve Anderson’s exit after a decade in the role, and nearly 50 years with Metro Nashville Police Department.
Cooper’s plan to hire the next chief includes multiple levels of community input on the decision, as well as leaning on national organizations for guidance, his office said.
“It lays the groundwork for a robust, nationwide search for a new police executive informed by expert advice on recruiting and 21st century policing principles. The goal of this process is to select a new police chief who will make Nashville a model of community engagement and policing innovation,” according to a release from the mayor’s office.
A firm date for Anderson’s departure has not been set.
Retirement amid reform calls
Anderson’s plan to retire this fall was announced by Cooper in June amid ongoing calls for police reform in Nashville and across the nation. Anderson himself has been largely silent on the topic since then.
The 45-year veteran of the force has been a central figure in the city through his 10 years leading the department. He has been lauded for his response to previous protests against police brutality and for reforming the way Nashville responds to domestic violence.
But as the nation faces a renewed call for police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd, activists feel Anderson has become an impediment to change. The chief has come under fire from activists and Nashville council members in recent weeks amid the local and national debate.
Cooper rejected the idea Anderson was stepping down in response to the mounting criticism. Supporters maintain Anderson has led the department with a steady hand.
The date of Anderson’s departure was initially tenuous; he’s expected to stay in the role through the presidential debate scheduled at Belmont University for Oct. 22. Other universities have canceled debates at their facilities in recent weeks over COVID-19 concerns.
Public engagement through survey
A survey, hosted on the city’s Hub information website, aims to encourage community participation in the search for a police chief, according to the mayor’s release.
The survey includes the following five questions:
- What are the three (3) most important qualities or skills you would like to see in Nashville’s next police chief?
- What would you like to see the next chief accomplish immediately? Over the next 2-3 years?
- What are the most important public safety needs in your neighborhood?
- Please share suggestions you have for improving police services.
- What is your home zip code?
Those without internet access will also be able to participate by calling 311.
After the job description for the new chief is developed from that survey and other conversations, Cooper’s office said, Metro Human Resources will assemble the hiring committee.
It’ll be made up of “diverse individuals with backgrounds in law enforcement and community oversight,” according to the release.
But it remains unclear who that would include.
Nashville’s Community Oversight Board, created by referendum to review and recommend policy changes to MNPD, continues to push for a seat at the hiring table.
Cooper has promised to form a committee focused on reviewing Nashville’s police policies and reforming the department’s use-of-force practices. In June, the COB agreed to join the committee, but also created a system parallel to the mayor’s plan. The board, moving far quicker than the mayor’s office, also approved a policy recommendation on the “8 can’t wait” campaign, which examines eight tactics aimed at reducing police violence.
Still, questions remain about how effective the board will be at making recommendations on changes to Metro Police policy. The group can issue recommendations. But it’s up to the department to adopt them, and the board has had a rocky relationship with the department.
The city has also pulled in an expert police executive recruiter, according to the release, named Gary Peterson.
Peterson is President and CEO of Public Sector Search & Consulting, a company that specializes in finding candidates for police leadership roles.
He’ll be tasked with recruiting “outstanding” candidates, who have “a proven track record of innovation and community engagement and a commitment to the principles set forth by President Obama’s Task Force on Twenty-First Century Policing,” the release said.
The task force’s principles are also the guidelines Coopers’ use of force committee will be navigating.
In his search, Peterson will survey the current police department, according to the release, including asking questions like:
- What do you think the department does really well?
- What three (3) things would you change about the department if you could?
- Describe the kind of leader who you would like to see as your next chief.
- What do you think the key challenges will be for the new chief?
Details on the contract with Peterson were not immediately available.
After the review committee and the consultant’s search, candidates who make it that far will still be required to come before an interview panel with Metro and the mayor.
Cooper plans to select the next chief by the end of October.