Search for new police chief begins

Terry RogersHeadlines, Milford Headline Story, Police & Fire

The search has begun for City of Milford Police Chief Kenneth Brown’s replacement

With just a few weeks until Chief of Police Kenneth Brown retires from the Milford Police Department, the city hired Gov HR USA to assist them in finding his replacement. At a recent workshop, Jon Fehlman, Vice President of Gov HR USA, provided council with the beginning parameters of how the search will be conducted. Fehlman explained that surveys were sent to council as well as others in the city in order to gain an understanding of what the city is looking for in a chief.

“We are in the brochure part of info gathering. Everything I do will be run through you folks, the decision makers, so you can give us approval on the next steps,” Fehlman said. “And we have a timeline. We understand that things come up, but we’ll stock to it as much as possible. To find chief recruitments it can take between 90 and 120 days. We have done them faster and we have done them slower. A lot of times it is driven by what is going on in the city and what is going on with candidates. I think we are going to have a robust group of candidates around five weeks of that window being open. Just know that I’m going to get you the best chief I can.”

According to the timeline provided by Fehlman, the resume deadline for the position will be around the first week of September with background and reference checks taking place throughout the month. The goal is to have a candidate selected around mid-to-late September.

“My concern is and to your point, we don’t want to rush. But if a candidate comes along quicker than the timeline, that’s okay too. There’s nothing magic about extending it. There was no need to do that, but we do want the best,” Councilman Jason James said. “I guess everyone understood the requirements of what you were looking for when you sent out this recruitment brochure. Because I took the liberty of saying okay, well, I like what’s on here, but don’t put a line through it. I like the order I’m not going to change the order because order matters. Whatever order submitted and that’s those are things that were important to me come first because Milford is much different. I just don’t want it to take forever because having a lame duck police chief is not ideal. And it’s not like any other town doesn’t have its own unique set of opportunities and issues. We don’t want a lame duck session.”

Fehlman explained that he understood the concern and that there was the hope that there would not be significant down time, but that his company had found a “sweet spot” for an open recruitment window. The company would still be working behind the scenes reviewing candidate submissions and organizing them, but they felt it would not be feasible to close the window prematurely.

“There’s a very competitive chief market out there and a lot of agencies looking and with a place like Milford, you’re in a great position because you’re going to have a lot of talented people who look at that community and just listen to that presentation. They are going to look at those things and say this would be a town I’d like to get a job,” Fehlman, who was a police chief and taught around the country, said. “Well, I mean, I’ve got my personal portfolio candidates, the ones that I look into who we have a portfolio on file already. I’ve probably got less time to look at 7,000 people who’ve applied for police chief jobs around the country. I don’t know all 7,000, but I probably have at least 400, maybe 500. I would reach out to them. But one of the things that comes up is that you have people who you know want the job for the prestige. I don’t want people who want the job for the prestige, but the ones who are the fit for the community. So, as I sit here right now, I mean, I think about some of the chiefs I know. There have been chiefs in small communities and then we could have a whole crew of them applying for this job as it is nationwide.”

Councilman James asked if there were automatic disqualifiers for any applicant.

“Any kind of criminal conviction or anything on domestic violence, they can’t carry a gun in most states if they’ve been convicted of domestic violence. So, any kind of criminal activity but again, it’s going to be the activity in that they’re involved in,” Fehlman said. “I’ll give you an example. Had a person who had been accused of embezzlement. This wasn’t a police chief, and they had been accused of embezzling two different times in their career. And it was several years old, it was 12 years old. There had been the finding of not sustained and not sustained is one of those difficult findings. Because you’re not saying it didn’t happen. You don’t have the proof to say it did. So, what happened was that again that question, is there anything in your background that either the city or you would be embarrassed about if found out? And the response was no nothing at all. So one of my disqualifiers is dishonesty in the interview with me or with anybody else.”

Another issue the city will face with a nationwide search is that some states do not have the same requirements of police officers. Therefore, they would not want a chief who would need to spend 16, 18 or 24 months in a police academy to get the proper training. Someone who is not a citizen of the United States would need to take steps to become a citizen which can be very time consuming, and they would also require sponsorship of some type to come to or remain in this country. Councilman Andy Fulton asked if physical and mental fitness would be a requirement for the chief.

“I will tell you in the two of the feedback sheets I got from folks, there were very pointed comments about physical fitness. And the one person is very passionate about the fact that of wanting police officers that look like police officers, that look good in uniform and by that, I mean they stretch to more than one aspect of health and wellness,” Fehlman said. “When we talk about the mental health of our police officers again, when I do the interviews with them, I also get into their personal life to a limited degree as far as hobbies, what kind of activities, what kind of participation, what are you doing in the community in your off time, so issues like that. I do ask.  I guess it is a little bit of a delicate balance. Like I can ask some things, but I can’t dig.”

Fehlman explained that candidates have told others that they went through the “Fehlman grinder” when they interviewed for positions, something he takes as a complement. He stated that he was still a cop at heart and that he wanted any candidate to come out of his interviews “tired, sweaty and exhausted.” Councilman James wanted to be sure that any candidate knew the chain of command, that they would be reporting to council.

“This is one of the things we kind of quiz them on,” Fehlman said. “All of this goes into the brochure and when we interview, we ask questions that are clearly stated in the brochure. If they don’t realize the form of government they are applying for, we feel they have not done their due diligence which means they are probably not a worthwhile candidate.”

The advertisement for the chief will be reviewed by council and city staff before it is published in the next few weeks as will the brochure provided to candidates.







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