Durham News: Opinion

Tom Bonfield: Your input critical as Durham selects next police chief

By Tom Bonfield

City of Durham

One of the most important decisions for any city is the hiring of a police chief. The city of Durham’s next police chief must not only have the critical competencies, background, and experience needed to serve this diverse and growing community, but also have a willingness to understand the many public safety and crime issues and challenges we face.

It is critical that we recruit and select the right person to fill this tall order. As police departments across the nation seek to build better relationships with communities, transparency and engagement are critical, especially as we seek a new leader. During this search process, seeking the input of a variety of people in a variety of ways will help us obtain a complete and balanced picture of what Durham wants and needs from its next chief.

Last week, two community forums were held to hear directly what residents wanted to see in the next chief. We appreciate the approximately 35 attendees at each meeting, who braved the weather conditions each night, to come out and learn about the planned recruitment and assessment process, and then share their own ideas. We also appreciate the efforts of many interested organizations and individuals to enhance the city’s publicity efforts for these the meetings by sharing these input opportunities on their own social media platforms.

The community forums were just one method for our search consultant, Developmental Associates, to gain valuable feedback. Other feedback methods included meetings with the mayor and City Council, city executive team members, police officers, supervisors, and command staff, a focus group session with participants from the community, and meetings with community groups.

In addition, an online survey (http://bit.ly/durhampolicechiefsearch) for those who were not able to attend public sessions is available. To date, nearly 800 surveys have been completed, and a Spanish language version (http://bit.ly/durhampolicechiefsearchspanish) is now available. We hope many more people take advantage of this opportunity.

Rest assured that all responses will be taken into account and considered as a part of this information gathering process.

I hope we can all agree that while bringing a new chief into our community in a spirit of openness and engagement, especially given the nationwide need for improved police-community relations, is essential, the assessment is also part of a personnel process and some aspects will be protected under North Carolina personnel privacy statutes.

As the city proceeds through the search process, we urge all Durham residents to take advantage of opportunities now and in the coming months to make your voices heard. Future opportunities for input and feedback will be noticed through media outlets, social media, and posted on the city’s webpage.

Thank you for your interest, engagement and feedback.

Tom Bonfield is Durham’s city manager.