NORFOLK, Va. — Managers with the City of Norfolk and consulting firm Morris & McDaniel are nearing one critical step in the search for a new police chief.
They are set to close application portals on Nov. 26. That way, they can try to meet their goal of announcing a pick by the end of the year.
Seven months after Larry Boone abruptly retired from the role of Norfolk Police Chief, the search is still on for his permanent replacement.
While the process moves along, former Police Chief Michael Goldsmith has been at the helm on an interim basis.
Whoever takes on the role next will need to address ongoing concerns, including a rise in crime.
Resident Doris Young had this to say at an October in-person community input session: "It's concerning to us, as citizens, that we don't know 'What should we do to prevent things from happening?' So I'd like to see a quality be something to get the people involved in the city, on what can we do?"
When it comes to homicides, for instance, 13News Now counted 57 in Norfolk this year (as of Nov. 15). Compared the same time frame last year, the tally was at 53.
By year's end in 2021, the city recorded a total of 61 homicides.
Local pastor Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Guns of Second Calvary Baptist Church told 13News Now that a chief who can pour in time with the youth and impoverished communities would be part of the solution.
"If you don't address juvenile problems, then you're just waiting until the next generation comes along and they still have the same issues," said Guns. "Needs to have some sensitivity to working with kids, and then be able to provide a means to ensure officers are trained, and understand how to work with kids in some of these communities, some of these tough neighborhoods where we see the violence being committed."
And like many departments nationwide, the new top cop will also tackle a staffing shortage.
"That police chief is going to have to identify that and fix it," said Frank Allgood, a retired Norfolk police lieutenant, who spoke at the October session.
A spokesman with Norfolk Police Department said that, as of Nov., they had 205 vacancies.
"The Norfolk Police Department itself is in crisis," Allgood said.
In order to turn things around, downtown resident Lorraine Connaughton shared her hope in the selected candidate.
"I think, at this point, someone who is charismatic. With the number of vacancies in the police force, someone has to attract people to the department," she Connaughton. "It's the 'chicken and the egg' question. Do you get more police in and then start tackling the problems, or get a leader in on the top who can bring more folks in?"
Connaughton also serves as secretary for the Downtown Norfolk Civic League; however, she offered her thoughts as a citizen.
In October, 13News Now asked Norfolk City Manager, Dr. Chip Filer, whether a new chief could usher in a full force.
"I do think a new chief can come in with a new vision, a long-term vision and say, 'Here's where I'm moving the department.' That should excite folks, get folks to apply and also get those who are thinking perhaps of changing careers and leaving the profession to hopefully stick in our department," said Filer.
Amid what will be Filer's first chief hire in Norfolk, he outlined other things in his wish list: "I want someone who has a good grasp of the technology that we have available to us, both things we currently use and things we could be using. And I need someone who can really resonate with communities."
That said, Filer mentioned that the topic of an internal versus external hire has sparked a lot of debate, too.
With the application deadline fast approaching, December is sure to be packed with rounds of interviews and assessments.
Filer, along with consultants, will whittle the list down to a set of seven or eight candidates and then close in on a group of two or three finalists.
In December citizens could potentially see another in-person input session to weigh in one last time.
Filer expressed hopes to announce a new chief by the end of this year. Their start date could range from right away to early 2023.