Community members will have a chance to weigh in on the search for a Baton Rouge police chief Thursday night at a public comment forum when the search committee plans to whittle the pool from seven to five candidates.
Public comments will be limited to three minutes each. After they are complete, any of the candidates present will be permitted to make a five to seven minute closing statement.
Then a 14-member committee selected by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome will publicly vote on the top five candidates, who the mayor will interview privately. Broome has said she plans to select a new chief by the end of the year.
The committee, which has publicly interviewed each candidate over the past three weeks, could go into a closed-door executive session to discuss the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a candidate, said Janene Tate, Broome’s communications director.
Any of the candidates, though, can require that the discussion be held publicly. Committee members have said in previous meetings that they would like to avoid executive session.
Tate said the mayor's office is hoping for a diverse crowd in order to hear from the community.
“(The candidates have) heard from the mayor. They’ve heard from the committee. Now it’s time for them to hear from the community,” Tate said.
State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who is a committee member, said he is also hoping that the community will be engaged in the final public step of the process.
“We haven’t had a strong showing so I want to hear what they want to see in a chief,” James said. “I would like to hear issues that we may not have questioned the applicants on and just hear from a ground level about what the community wants to see.”
Twelve people initially applied for the job, but one applicant failed the civil service exam for the job and four others dropped out of the process at different times.
The remaining candidates are Baton Rouge police officers Myron Daniels, Sharon Douglas, Darryl Honoré and Robert McGarner, Louisiana State Police trooper Murphy Paul Jr., University of Louisiana at Monroe Police Department officer Jeremy Kent, and former Baton Rouge police officer Ronald Stevens.
Of the seven remaining candidates, four currently work at the Baton Rouge Police Department and a fifth previously worked for the department. James said he thinks the small number of applicants is a reflection of civil service rules that govern the department.
“I believe that we have some quality applicants, but I will also say that the number of candidates and I guess the lack of outside candidates speaks to the issues that have been articulated with civil service,” James said.