Seattle’s search for a new police chief became public Friday as the names of three more candidates emerged in addition to a former Boston police commissioner who was previously identified.
The newly disclosed candidates, all police chiefs of departments smaller than the Seattle Police Department, stand in contrast to the fourth candidate, Kathleen O’Toole, the only one to head a big-city department.
They are Robert Lehner, the chief in Elk Grove, Calif., who previously served as police chief in Eugene, Ore.; Patrick R. Melvin, the police chief of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona; and Frank Milstead, chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department.
Their names were confirmed by the two co-chairs of Mayor Ed Murray’s search committee after The Seattle Times, citing a source, reported on its website Friday that the three were under consideration.
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Murray plans to announce the week of May 19 his choice to head a police department buffeted by controversy and a federally mandated consent decree requiring reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing.
The nominee will then be considered by the City Council for confirmation.
Lehner, 58, has 30 years of law-enforcement experience, some as an assistant chief in Tucson, Ariz.
Melvin, 49, previously was a longtime member of the Phoenix Police Department.
Milstead, 51, previously served for 25 years in the Phoenix Police Department, holding various command positions.
Melvin is African-American; the other two are white. The three were unavailable for comment Friday.
O’Toole, 59, who served as Boston’s police commissioner from 2004 to 2006, has not been available for comment since The Times reported Thursday that she was a candidate.
Now working as a consultant, O’Toole also served as chief inspector of Ireland’s national police from 2006 to 2012, garnering a reputation as an internationally recognized expert on police oversight who in 2013 was appointed to oversee police reforms in East Haven, Conn.
If selected, she would become Seattle’s first female police chief.
The two co-chairs of the search committee, Pramila Jayapal and Ron Sims, confirmed the four names in a news release Friday, saying they were doing so because the names had been disclosed in the news media. They had hoped to keep the names quiet as the committee continued to screen the candidates, in part to keep anyone from dropping out who didn’t want to be publicly identified at this stage.
“While we value the importance of confidentiality to the police chief search, we determined that, with the identities of some candidates now publicly known, a fully confidential process is no longer possible at this stage,” Jayapal said in a statement that described each candidate as “outstanding.”
In the coming weeks, her statement said, the committee will continue to evaluate the candidates.
In an interview Friday, Jayapal said the candidates will be given a written test, perhaps with other elements, and she left open the door to looking at other applicants if necessary.
She said the committee hopes to submit three names to Murray within the next two weeks.
Of the four under consideration, she said they share some qualifications and differ in others. “They are all reformers,” she said.
Jayapal said the committee looked at the “trajectory” and substance of their careers, not just where they work now.
“I would say the field is wide open as far as these four candidates go,” she said.
Jayapal is a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Community Change and founder and former executive director of OneAmerica, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrant, civil and human rights; Sims is a former King County executive and ex-deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Seattle’s previous police chief, John Diaz, retired a year ago. Since then, Jim Pugel and then Harry Bailey have acted as interim chiefs of the department, which has more than 1,300 sworn officers and 533 civilian employees.
Brief look at the three
Milstead, who in Mesa leads a department of 1,200 sworn and civilian employees, notes in his department biography his emphasis on “street-level crime fighting, community partnership, economic efficiency and transparency through technology.”
His department introduced a smartphone application that allows citizens, among other things, to anonymously report information and to identify where sex offenders are living.
He is the son of the late Ralph “Tom” Milstead, who was a Phoenix police administrator before he led the Arizona Department of Public Safety through several crises during a nine-year stint that ended in 1989, according to The Arizona Republic newspaper.
Melvin, whose department east of Phoenix has 114 sworn officers and 36 professional staff members, cites on the department’s website his “goal to continually work to develop and enhance the relationship between the police department and community we serve while maintaining a safe community for many years to come.”
Melvin served in the Phoenix Police Department for 21 years, retiring as a commander, before he was named in 2006 as the police first chief in Maricopa, Ariz., as it ended a relationship with a sheriff’s office. He was appointed as Salt River Pima-Maricopa police chief in 2011, according to a news report.
“A change agent”
Lehner became the police chief in Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb, in 2008, overseeing a department of 131 sworn officers and 79 civilian employees.
When he left his previous job as police chief in Eugene, Ore., he told The Register-Guard in Eugene that he wanted to help lead a city that had incorporated just eight years earlier.
In Eugene, he assumed the chief’s job in 2004 at a time when the department was under heavy scrutiny, stung by allegations that two officers used their positions to sexually exploit women while on duty, according to a Register-Guard story. Both were subsequently convicted of crimes.
Lehner’s previous professional experience “together with his systematic thinking and his quiet, articulate manner were just what the EPD needed when the department and the city were confronted with” the scandals, former Eugene City Manager Dennis Taylor, who hired Lehner, wrote in an email to The Register-Guard at the time Lehner departed.
“He truly was a change agent,” Taylor said of Lehner.
Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @stevemiletich