For the second time in three years, Lodi has begun a search for a new police chief. City Manager Rad Bartlam announced Friday that the recruitment process for a new top cop in the department has started, and the city is getting some outside help. Headhunting firm Bob Murray & Associates will handle the recruitment process, taking all applications and contacting prospective chiefs from now until March 18.
“We want to find the best chief for the city of Lodi,” City spokesman Jeff Hood said. “Whether that’s someone in-house or outside, we won’t know until we go through the candidate pool.”
The last time Lodi hired a permanent chief, the city performed its own recruitment and ended up promoting Capt. David Main from within the department in 2008. After his short-lived tenure as chief, which ended with an abrupt retirement in April, Capt. Gary Benincasa took over in the interim. Benincasa said initially he was interested in the position, but the recruitment of a chief was again disrupted when Benincasa unexpectedly announced his retirement Dec. 1.
Now the city has brought in a firm with ample experience filling small government positions like city manager, city administrator, and especially police chief.
Murray & Associates has handled recruitment for 80 to 100 police chief positions in the last decade, according to Regan Williams, one of the firm’s vice-presidents. Recently, the firm has helped with various chief searches in the surrounding areas, Williams said, such as in Folsom, Roseville, Concord, El Cerrito and Menlo Park.
“We do a lot of (chief) searches every year,” Williams said. “We do them all over the place.”
Familiarity with candidates in Northern California was part of what made Murray & Associates attractive for Lodi’s chief recruitment, Hood said. Members of the firm are also personally familiar with small government and law enforcement positions: Williams is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and former director of public safety for Sunnyvale, and firm president Bob Murray is a former city manager.
The firm’s contract with the city is for $15,500, Hood said, plus up to $4,250 for expenses.
All interested applicants will have to go through Murray & Associates, even those already with the Lodi Police Department. Although he has not publicly expressed interest, Lodi Capt. J.P. Badel was identified as a strong potential candidate by Bartlam in December. With Benincasa’s retirement, Badel is the sole captain and highest-ranking member of the police force.
Murray & Associates will whittle down the field of applicants (which Williams said usually totals between 40 and 60) to around a dozen finalists. Of those finalists, the firm will choose a handful to be interviewed by the city.
“When the process closes, we go through and review the resumes and identify the best candidates,” Williams said. “It’s the city manager’s call to select the chief, and we provide him hopefully good information that will put him in the position to select the best candidate.”
This isn’t the first time the city has used an outside firm to hire a city official. Former City Manager Blair King was hired at the end of a recruitment process conducted by Avery Associates, Hood said.
While applicants for officer positions have been better than ever for places like Galt due to the poor economy, Williams said filling chief positions has gotten a little tougher. In a down economy, it’s harder for candidates to relocate, he said, because they have trouble selling their homes.
Hood said the city will conduct panel interviews with the finalists in April. The city is expecting a new chief to be hired by May.
Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at email@example.com.