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Search For New Dover Police Chief Underway

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DOVER, Del.- The search for Dover's next top cop is officially underway. 

The city's police chief selection committee on Wednesday held its first meeting and laid out a timetable to hire the successor to Marvin Mailey, who retired from the department earlier this year. 

"We want to be able to present our new police chief candidate to city council by Dec. 9," said committee member and city councilman Ralph Taylor (District 2), who is also former Dover police officer.

The committee authorized the city's human resources department to advertise the vacant chief position atop the Dover Police Department, which is currently being managed by interim chief Tim Stump, who has said he is not going to seek the job on a permanent basis. 

"He has graciously agreed to stay on board through the hiring of the new chief and the first few months the new chief is on board," said Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, who serves as the chairman of the selection panel. 

The police chief committee in the coming weeks and months will consider applicants to the position and eventually recommend Christiansen appoint a particular candidate selected by the panel. 

Applicants from both inside the Dover Police Department and outside city law enforcement will be considered. 

Previous Hirings Marred by Controversies

Appointing a police chief has not gone smoothly in Dover over the last several years. 

After former Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat was appointed to the position in 2014, city council members pressured former mayor Carleton Carey to resign amid a grievance from officers, including Stump, who said they were unfairly passed over for a promotion to deputy chief, which was filled by Mailey, then a lieutenant. 

Carey resigned the position in 2015 and the city would end up agreeing to a $300,000 settlement with the high-ranking officers. 

The city then reformed its process of hiring a police chief, creating the committee that exists today, and opened up the position to candidates from outside the city police department. 

But the new path to picking a police chief was not immune to controversy. 

Bernat's retirement led to Mailey's appointment as police chief, but the hiring process became mired in politics after a war of words erupted on social media and in public between Councilman Roy Sudler and Christiansen. 

Sudler and some clergy leaders called on Christiansen to appoint Mailey much earlier than he did. 

Christiansen maintained that he would follow the process proscribed under the committee process made law by city council.

Ultimately, Mailey was tapped for the job and took over on a permanent basis after serving in the interim for months.

Despite previous controversies involving previous hires, Christiansen maintained the selection process will be both transparent and follow the procedures required under city code.

“This process and other hiring of our other senior officials will be done in a pristine manner,” he said.

Outside Candidates?

It has been decades since a police chief was not promoted from within the department, though some speculate that may change this year.

Former Dover Police Chief Jeff Horvath, who now serves as the executive director of the Delaware Police Chief’s Council, said national searches for candidates offer municipalities a larger pool of qualified candidates that may have qualities not found in an agency’s existing ranks.

But Horvath said he remains preferential to promoting from within and noted an internal candidate can lead to additional advancements in the career ladders of other officers.

"The benefit of promoting within is you're going to be promoting someone who knows the town who knows the issues,” he said.

But some Dover residents, like Anjelique Waters, said an outside candidate might be the best way to go.

"I think if they got some outside help it would help because these kids aren't scared of the police we have now,” she said.

Christiansen said he did not plan to consult the union representing city police officers about who should be chief, though Taylor said he intended to seek out the group’s input.

The mayor noted he hopes to hire the “best” candidate for Dover, regardless of whether he or she comes from inside the city police department or not.

But Christiansen said he believes the next chief will need to have strong leadership and other qualities needed to run the fourth largest law enforcement agencies in the state.

“When I say team building, I mean building confidence within the department and building confidence within the community,” he said. “The public has to have confidence in you as a leader.”

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