Smithfield Herald

Smithfield searching for next police chief

Former Smithfield police chief Michael Scott, left, now town manager, is searching for his replacement as chief. At right is the town’s finance director, Greg Siler.
Former Smithfield police chief Michael Scott, left, now town manager, is searching for his replacement as chief. At right is the town’s finance director, Greg Siler. abennett@newsobserver.com

Smithfield Town Manager Michael Scott has halved his search for a police chief.

The June 13 deadline for applications drew 14 candidates; Scott has since culled the list to seven, he told the town council earlier this month.

Seven of the 14 applications came from outside of North Carolina, but that’s all the information town spokesman Tim Kerigan was willing to divulge about the search. He would not say how many were male or female or whether anyone from inside the department applied. He would not reveal the applicants’ years of experience.

“I’m sorry that we cannot provide more information at this time, but we are held somewhat in regards to state statute and in some cases by request of the applicants,” Kerigan said.

Kerigan referred specifically to N.C. General Statute 132, which governs public records, and G.S. 153A-98, which governs personnel records.

Frayda S. Bluestein of the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill said Kerigan was right to be cautious. “While we may think of confidentiality as only relating to the identity of the applicants, it’s not entirely clear that a city has authority to release any information about applicants,” she said. “The statute creates criminal liability for release of confidential information, and while it’s unlikely that there would be a prosecution for such a release, it’s reasonable for the unit to be cautious about releasing information that may be confidential.”

Smithfield isn’t using a consulting firm to aid in the vetting of applicants and in the hiring of a chief; Scott is handling the search. After culling the field to seven, he sent them questionnaires, which the candidates have completed and returned to the town, he said. Scott said he would use responses to the questionnaires to narrow the field further.

The town’s posting for the job was sometimes broad, saying Smithfield was looking for someone with a degree in law enforcement, public administration, business or a related field. But the town did say it wanted someone with considerable experience “of a progressively responsible nature in law enforcement management.” And Smithfield will give preference to applicants with a master’s degree or completion of the FBI National Academy or similar program.

The posting added that the town is seeking “a visionary with a strong track record in community relations, problem solving, community partnerships, staff development and a high level of professional ethics and integrity.” The town also wants someone who can apply mature judgment and sensitivity when dealing with citizens and community organizations and someone who has strong technical, leadership and management skills. Finally, the town wants its new chief to understand the significance of diversity in its police department and how to attract and retain a diverse force.

The current salary range, according to the job listing, is $58,522 to $94,071.74, based on education and qualifications. In Smithfield, the police chief reports directly to the town manager.

Scott was Smithfield’s police chief until he became town manager in May.

Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett

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