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Here's what we know about the final candidates being considered for Norfolk’s next police chief

13News Investigates filed a public records request to learn about the final three candidates.

NORFOLK, Va. — And then there were three.

The City of Norfolk has whittled down the list for its next police chief to just three candidates in a nationwide search that has taken months longer than originally projected.

The high-profile position is an important hire for City Manager Dr. Chip Filer as the severely understaffed police department, short some 200 officers, must still fight rising crime.

The search for Larry Boone’s replacement has dragged on nearly a full year since he decided to step down as police chief in April 2022.

Norfolk grappled with 63 homicides last year, several high-profile shootings downtown, and more than 1,800 reports of stolen cars.

13News Now Investigates spent recent days poring over public records to learn more about the search for the next police chief and where it stands today.

A look at the finalists

Dr. Filer utilized the expertise of other Hampton Roads leaders outside of Norfolk when interviewing the finalists.

Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot and Newport News Deputy City Manager for Public Safety Alan Archer sat in on the interviews, alongside Dr. Filer, Interim Chief Michael Goldsmith and Director of Human Resources Marva Smith.

We wanted to learn more about the candidates, their priorities, and what direction the City is looking to take the department. So, we filed a public records request for copies of the questionnaires completed by the three finalists.

The City asked four questions, including how the candidates would improve police/community relations, reduce violent crime, and recruit and retain officers while working to diversify the force.

Norfolk City leaders redacted the names of the candidates and any information that could identify their current employer, instead providing a generic biography for each one. We reviewed every detail provided to us and these are the key findings about each candidate:

Candidate #1

Law Enforcement Executive with more than 35 years of civilian policing and military law enforcement duties, with increasingly responsible command-level experience. Commands include but are not limited to: operations, administration, community policing, precinct operations, criminal and internal investigations, training and recruiting. Candidate has served as Chief of Police in two localities, including an urban southeastern city. Candidate holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and has completed several advanced and executive level education programs.

  1. In the candidate’s prior job as police chief, they dealt with violent crime and community distrust of police. “Prior to my arrival, the police department was in a freefall and hated by the community for past and recent abuses… I was able to get past that distrust being not from the area and being openly honest about what was needed from the community.”
  2. In their prior job, they organized an operation that ensured shooting suspects' bonds were greatly increased to as high as $1 million. “As the community quickly realized that the suspects could no longer just get out of jail within 24 hours, they were more encouraged to provide needed information.”
  3. They wrote about the importance of a diverse police force and the challenges in recruiting officers. They recommended holding a police academy at a local HBCU: “This is a great opportunity to make law enforcement part of a college/university curriculum and enroll candidates just as the military.”

Candidate #2

Law Enforcement Executive with more than 20 years of civilian policing in an urban southeastern city, with increasing responsible command-level experience. Commands include but are not limited to, community policing, narcotics, operations and training. Candidate holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice, and has completed several advanced and executive level education programs; is pursuing a PhD in Criminal Justice.

  1. The candidate said they will be an advocate for the officers and that their wellness must be a top priority: “The issues impacting the NPD did not occur overnight, there are long-standing practices with perception of inequity, unfairness, and inequality have ignited a reduction in morale along with other outstanding concerns.”
  2. They would incorporate an “admit it and move on” option in the Office of Professional Standards for command-handled complaints. “The officer will have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and receive discipline, training, or corrective action up to a letter of reprimand.”
  3. The candidate acknowledged the internal struggles at NPD, writing “NPD currently employs 505 officers whose demographics do not reflect the community.” They said they would take police recruiting to where people are, including traveling to an untapped demographic of potential candidates at places such as beauty salons, nail salons, fitness centers and community centers. They also suggested employing students upon their 18th birthday in civilian positions while assisting the students with obtaining Associates Degrees in the process.

Candidate #3

Law Enforcement Executive with nearly 35 years of civilian policing in a populous southeastern city, with increasing responsible command-level experience. Commands include but are not limited to, community policing, SWAT, precinct and special operations, training and development, and internal investigations. Candidate holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, a Master of Public Administration and has completed several advanced and executive level education programs.

  1. One of their first priorities as chief would be to develop a data-driven, intelligence-led, violent crime reduction strategy. They said they would focus on quality arrests, not quantity, by implementing data-driven strategies as opposed to ‘Zero Tolerance Initiatives’ that focus on sheer arrests which they noted “only impairs police/community relationships.”
  2. Given the officer shortage, this candidate said that “adding key technologies” like gunshot detection and a Real-Time Crime Center, among other things, would help with day-to-day operations.
  3. They would establish a mentoring program for officers, writing: “As I have prepared for this process and opportunity, the one theme that has emerged from the rank and file up and down the chain of command, has been the need to develop those seeking leadership positions by building principled centered leadership opportunities.”

City manager speaks on this stage of the search

Filer sat down with reporters Monday afternoon to discuss where things stand. He said it took the search committee some time to narrow down the list of candidates from 40 to 10-12 and now to the final three.

He would not say whether any are local, only mentioning they come from Southeastern U.S. cities, and that the areas are more urban than suburban. 

Filer explained he made a promise to the finalists to not publicly release their names, because all three are currently employed at their respective law enforcement agencies. 

Candidate #1 is a sitting police chief and also served as one before. Candidates #2 and #3 are both in high-level administrative positions, Filer said. 

"I really think all three have a strong foundation in what it takes to effectively police a city, because they've been in various divisions of these departments," he added. 

The selected police chief will have to tackle challenges, like recruitment and retention in a department aforementioned as down by 200 or so officers.

"I need a police chief that recognizes the importance internally of running the department, as well as understands the external components a modern-day police chief has to embrace and has to be very good at," Filer said.

Making the hire

There have been only four police chiefs in Norfolk since 1993.

The last two chiefs were both promoted internally. Larry Boone, and his predecessor, now interim Chief Goldsmith, served decades on the force before becoming Top Cop. The prior two chiefs, Bruce Marquis and Melvin High, came from outside Hampton Roads.

A city spokesperson would not confirm if any of these three finalists are current employees of the Norfolk Police Department.

The City of Norfolk is accepting comments from residents regarding the police chief search until March 27. You can send those to NPDChiefSearch@norfolk.gov or visit norfolk.gov/ChiefQuestions.

The City Manager and consultants from Morris & McDaniel said they will review that additional public input as part of the overall selection process.

The spokesperson says the latest goal is to have a chief selected by “later this Spring.”

Filer did tell reporters Monday afternoon that with one more round of interviews to go, he envisions making a decision in early April. However, the chosen candidate may not start until a later time, considering the anticipated transition from their existing police agency.

Click here to read the full questionnaire responses from the candidates.  

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