City manager discusses GPD chief hiring process


Following the Nov. 21 res­ignation of Steve Heaton, who served as chief of the Griffin Police Department since April 2014, Capt. Ho­mer Daniel, as the senior commanding officer, has been named interim chief.

Griffin City Manager Ken­ny Smith said Daniel will hold that position until the hiring process has been completed, which he esti­mates will be in early 2016.

The application period closed earlier in November and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP) has begun its screening process.

They’re (the GACP) doing an assessment center. It’s a three-part assessment. The first part is actually a test – a validated test – the second part is a scenario-based as­sessment and the third part is an oral interview,” Smith explained.

Smith said he would have preferred to have a new chief hired prior to Heaton’s departure, but said he antic­ipates the process will not be completed for months.

I would’ve liked to have had one before Chief Hea­ton left, but obviously it didn’t. The Chief’s Associa­tion has to operate on their schedule because they’re involved in a lot of other things, so I think they’re trying to have their assessment either the first or second week in December,” he said. “After that, then of course, they will give us the results of their assessment and then it will be up to us to do some interviews with those finalist and then back­ground investigations and the whole nine yards. I’m ex­pecting realistically, with the holidays coming up, I would expect it would be the end of January or beginning of February at the earliest.”

Smith said the city’s con­tract with GACP specifies the applicant list will be nar­rowed to eight finalist who will be invited to participate in the assessment process.

Then they’ll give us the scores for the eight that they put through the process,” Smith said. “With the process being so involved, there’s no way they could put 25 or 30 people through the process. That would just be too cum­bersome.”

There are some in the community who are calling specifically for the hiring of a chief from within the de­partment, while some have expressed their belief that now is the time for the city of Griffin Police Department to be led by its first black chief.

To garner support for hir­ing an internal candidate, a petition is being circulated for later presentation to city officials.

When asked if that peti­tion would impact the hiring decision, Smith said, “No, we don’t hire any employee based on a petition or based on what somebody thinks they know. We hire based on the best person for the job and there are a lot of differ­ent circumstances that go into determining the best person for the job. I’m not saying that Capt. Daniel, if he applied, wouldn’t be the best person for the job, but we don’t take petitions into consideration. I mean, there are a lot of factors to con­sider that are internal fac­tors that people who sign a petition have no idea about what’s going on in the de­partment or in the city inter­nally, so we have to take a lot of things into consideration.”

With regard to citizens who have expressed a pref­erence for a black chief, Smith said race will not be a factor in the decision making process.

We don’t hire anybody, we don’t make any employ­ment decisions based on race, religion, background, sex, national origin – I couldn’t care less. I’d be just as happy with a purple police chief as I would with a green police chief as long as they’re the best person for the job. There are a lot of factors that go into consideration to make sure the right person is put in the right place at the right time,” Smith said. “You know, John Doe could be the best police chief in the whole world, but if he’s not compatible with the rest of the team, if he’s not compat­ible with the city of Griffin, if he doesn’t have ideas about how to solve problems that are unique to the city of Grif­fin, then he may not be a fit for the city of Griffin. Just because someone appears to be the most qualified on paper, the best looking, the most polished, it’s got to be the right person at the right time. The right person for the job at the right time – I don’t care if they’re inside the de­partment, outside the de­partment, from Griffin, from Timbuktu. I don’t care. I’ve got to find the right person for the job at the right time at the right place.”

Smith expressed he will be basing the final hiring decision on information with which the community at-large may be unfamiliar.

I have to make decisions based on what I know to be the personality of the de­partment, the issues within that department, the good points, the weaknesses, the strengths and how some­one would best fit in to that department and to the city of Griffin. Every department has a unique personality; every city has a unique per­sonality; and every person has a unique personality, so it’s my job to determine how those different personalities are going to mesh together for the benefit of the citizens of Griffin,” he said. “We’ve still got some challenges inter­nally, some challenges exter­nally in the city of Griffin, so we’ve got to find the right fit to take on the challenges we have.”

Asked to cite the top chal­lenges he sees the city fac­ing, Smith said, “We’ve got crime issues. I mean, we have neighborhoods where peo­ple can’t sleep at night for hearing gunshots, and we’ve got to go outside the normal realm of reactionary police work to find creative solu­tions to some of those prob­lems. We’ve got gang issues. We’ve got to have somebody who has some experience level in dealing with that kind of issue who has some creative ideas as to how stop those things. I’m not preach­ing doom and gloom in the community; it’s just the re­ality. We’ve got drug issues out there. I’ve got to have somebody who has expe­rience and knowledge in dealing with some of those kind of issues that we have,” he said. “We have a diverse community. I’ve got to have somebody who’s got experi­ence working with a diverse community, and when I say diverse, I’m not necessar­ily talking about race. I’m talking about the north end of the town is mostly com­mercial. We have commer­cial pockets and we’ve got residential pockets. We’ve got affluent neighborhoods and we’ve got substandard neighborhoods. I mean, Griffin is somewhat unique in the different issues that we face and I’ve got to have somebody who has experi­ence with law enforcement with different areas in one community. I’ve got to have a leader. I’ve got to have somebody who’s ethical beyond reproach, who has the leadership skills that are needed to move that de­partment forward.”

Smith said once the GCPA has completed its assess­ment process, the top eight candidates’ results will be submitted for his review. Based on those results, he will determine which candi­dates will be interviewed for the chief’s position.

I hope to narrow it down some, but if the results are close enough that I need to interview all eight of them, then I’ll interview all eight of them. After I get the list and interview, it will be just a background investigation from that point forward,” he said. “I’m looking for a lot of things and I don’t know that person is out there. I don’t know if there’s the per­fect person out there who’s skilled and experienced in all those areas, so I’ve got to find the best person to meet some of those challenges.”

Under the city’s govern­mental structure, the final hiring decision will be made by Smith and does not re­quire additional approval.

It’s on me. That’s my job,” Smith said. ­

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