Portland looks for firm to help with search for new police chief

·2 min read

Aug. 17—The city of Portland is starting its search for a new police chief and is seeking a firm to help recruit applicants.

Portland is looking to find a successor to former Chief Frank Clark, who left the job in November to work in private security, and whose position is being filled by Interim Chief Heath Gorham.

The city announced Wednesday that it is seeking proposals from experienced search firms to assist with all aspects of the process. The chosen firm will work with a recruitment team that includes the city's fire chief, airport director, health and human services director, human resources director and chief of staff.

The first step in the search for a new chief comes a few months before Portland voters will weigh in on the Charter Commission's proposed changes to the structure of city government and leadership. Under the city charter, as it now stands, the city manager is responsible for appointing department heads, including the police chief, though appointments are subject to confirmation by the City Council.

The charter commission's proposal adds to the power of the mayor and reduces the authority of the city manager, whose role would be eliminated in favor of a new chief administrator. Under the proposal, the mayor would nominate department heads, subject to confirmation by a majority of the council.

The firm to help with the police chief search could be selected by November — but if so, it's likely it would just be starting its work and wouldn't be advertising for the job until later, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said on Wednesday.

Grondin said Interim City Manager Danielle West originally delayed the search for a new chief, expecting the next permanent city manager to make the appointment, but the search for a new city manager has been delayed by the Charter Commission's work.

Portland also has other department head openings — for public works and housing and economic development. Associate Corporation Counsel Jen Thompson has been serving as acting corporation counsel since West, who previously had that job, stepped in as interim city manager job in November.

"I think from Danielle's perspective, we have a bunch of interims and it's not fair to those departments," Grondin said. "So the thinking was we might as well get this process underway."

The police chief reports directly to the city manager under today's charter and is responsible for a department of 160 sworn members and 27 civilian staff, the city said Wednesday. The chief also oversees the regional communications and dispatch center, which employs a staff of 36.

A spokesman for the department did not respond to an email late Wednesday asking if Gorham planned to apply for the post.

Search firms have until 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7 to submit sealed proposals to the city.