Coatesville vows transparent process to select police chief

Media invited to observe as well-credentialed search committee begins to narrow field

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

The City of Coatesville, in need of new police leadership, wants to avoid the criticism generated during the selection of some past chiefs, a process sometimes shrouded in special interests.

For that reason, representatives of the media have been invited to observe the procedure, said City Manager Kirby Hudson, with one requirement: To ensure confidentiality, only the name of the candidate submitted to City Council for a vote can be published.

“We want this to be an open, transparent process,” said Greg Cary, regional external affairs manager for PECO and a former supervisory police officer in Caln Township. Cary helped assemble a well-credentialed search committee, which met for the first time Friday. “Everybody’s input is of great value,” he said.

During a nearly three-hour meeting, the group reviewed a dozen applications that had been submitted to determine whether the candidates possessed three qualifications of the job that could be easily assessed by analyzing resumes: Act 120 certification, state training that qualifies officers to make an arrest and carry a gun; command experience as a chief in a municipality at least as large as Coatesville’s 13,100 residents, or as a supervisor in a department serving at least 30,000; and a bachelor’s degree.

Only four candidates met those requirements, the group said. They will be scheduled for hour-long interviews next week with the committee members. The group also agreed to consider the qualifications of a 13th candidate, who had contacted Hudson and promised to submit a resume by Monday.

After the completion of the four – or possibly five – interviews, the committee will meet to discuss their reactions next Friday, a session expected to culminate with the submission of the top two choices to Hudson, Cary said.

Hudson said he plans to spend time with the final two, likely over dinner, and will also try to arrange meetings with Council members. Hudson and two Council members – Joseph Hamrick and C. Arvilla Hunt – are non-voting members of the selection committee. Hudson said he plans to submit his choice, which will require approval by City Council, in time for a vote at Council’s Sept. 10 meeting.

Besides Cary, the following people with law-enforcement experience have volunteered to serve on the search committee: Eugene Dooley, police chief in East Whiteland Township and a former homicide division chief for the Philadelphia Police Department; Tyree C. Blocker, a retired major in the Pennsylvania state police, where he directed the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement; and Keith Sadler, police chief for the city of Lancaster and a former chief inspector with the Philadelphia Police.

Committee members with community and business expertise include Marc Hanlan, a longtime consultant and author who has specializes in change management for the business, public and military sectors; Joseph Hamrick, the vice president of Coatesville City Council; Harry Lewis Jr., board chairman of the Brandywine Health Foundation and a longtime Coatesville educator; Rev. Randall Harris of Tabernacle Baptist Church; William Lambert, the president of the Coatesville NAACP; and Jack Crans,  chaplain of Chester County Prison and founder of Coatesville’s City Gate Mission and County Corrections Gospel Mission.

The vacancy was created when the former chief, Julius M. Canale, who took an early-retirement option in May, ended his day-to-day contract with the city in early July. Canale, a veteran of the department, was passed over for the chief’s position in 2007 because he did not meet the academic or residency qualifications. In April 2009, City Council decided to forgo those requirements and promoted Canale after the departure of Chief William Matthews, who had sparked controversy because he was not the choice of a search committee and was also not Act 120-certified.

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