A civil service board determined Thursday that all 12 applicants to become the next Baton Rouge police chief meet the minimum qualifications for the job, while a chief official with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's administration said they hope to have a new agency leader named by January.
The Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board unanimously approved the applications at a meeting Thursday, allowing candidates to move onto the next step: an exam Oct. 10. The names of those who score 75 percent or higher will then be sent to Broome's office for consideration.
The board didn't publicly discuss individual applications or details of the search process, but board chair Julie Cherry said after the meeting that they plan to receive exam scores a few weeks after the test and then approve those scores at their meeting Nov. 16, allowing the search process to continue under the mayor's direction.
Broome said Thursday she plans to create a committee of community leaders to review applications of a few finalists and provide her with feedback. She will choose the finalists and committee members.
Broome said she also plans to host an opportunity for the public to meet with top candidates — though the hiring decisions is ultimately hers to make.
James Llorens, interim chief administrative officer for the mayor, said it remains unclear whether the police union will be involved in evaluating candidates. Baton Rouge Police Department Union President Sgt. C. Bryan Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.
Llorens said finalists would likely receive questions about their "experiences, philosophies on law enforcement, and thoughts surrounding issues impacting this community." The target date on an appointment is Jan. 1, he said.
The police chief position opened in July after former Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. announced his retirement following a standoff with Broome, who had promised during her campaign to conduct a national search to replace him. But Llorens recently has said Broome was forced to abandon the national search because the unusual civil service requirements make the job unattractive for qualified candidates outside the state. All of the applicants have worked in Louisiana law enforcement.
Lt. Jonny Dunnam, the current interim chief, did not apply for the official position though he had taken and passed the civil service test for the chief three times in the past — most recently in 2013, when he scored the highest on the test. Dunnam has said he plans to retire in about three years.
There are five applicants who are currently Baton Rouge police officers, including Sgt. Myron Daniels, a 19-year veteran who applied for the chief position in 2013 after Dewayne White was fired, scoring a point higher than Dabadie on the civil service exam.
The other BRPD internal applicants are: Sharon Williams Douglas, Riley Harbor III, Darryl W. Honoré, and Robert McGarner Jr.
Douglas joined the agency in 2004 and works in the department’s recruiting and training services. Harbor, who joined the force in 1996, works in the community policing department and is a pastor. Honoré has a master's degree in criminal justice from Southern University and joined BRPD in 1995. McGarner, an Army veteran, has been with BRPD since 1989 and works in the department's Street Crimes Division.
The other seven chief candidates are both based in Baton Rouge and around Louisiana.
Ronald W. Stevens previously worked at the Baton Rouge Police Department from January 1975 to July 2004. In November 2008, Stevens joined the Louisiana Department of Justice, where he still works.
Three current Lake Charles Police Department officers also applied for the position: Shawn Lee Caldwell, who has worked there since 1993, Richard W. Harrell since 1995 and Mark Kraus since 1989. The agency's website states that Caldwell is deputy chief of operations, Kraus is deputy chief of investigations, and Harrell is a spokesman.
Jeremy Kent joined the University of Louisiana at Monroe Police Department in November 2016 after 14 years with the Monroe Police Department.
Samuel L. Wyatt is currently the director of investigations in the office of internal audit for the LSU System. He spent 18 years in law enforcement with the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office and the Bossier City Police. He is a doctoral candidate at LSU scheduled to graduate in December.
Lt. Col. Murphy J. Paul Jr. has worked for 23 years with Louisiana State Police and is currently deputy superintendent of the Bureau of Investigations, according to the agency's website.
As the search for a new chief enters the next stages, City Hall finally closed a chapter this week on a lawsuit stemming from a 2011 chief search. An unsuccessful applicant later sued Baton Rouge for gender discrimination, saying that played a role in her not receiving the job.
April Overman scored the highest out of the applicants on the Civil Service exam and was ranked among the top five candidates by a committee appointed by former Mayor-President Kip Holden. But Overman testified that she faced a barrage of questions from Holden during her interviews about how she would control a predominantly male police force.
Both a federal magistrate judge and an appellate court panel determined last year that Overman's gender cost her the job. The East Baton Rouge Metro Council authorized a $148,944.19 payout Wednesday for Overman, wrapping up her lawsuit.
Staff writer Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.