The airflow in the city’s police chief search is shut tighter than an Andersen window.
History, in part, is the reason.
The last police chief search conducted by the city in 2018 ended up a chemical fire mess, the testing process manipulated by then Acting Chief Armando Perez and Personnel Director David Dunn. Perez finished in the top three by fraudulent means, the test questions provided in advance with two underlings prepping Perez, an advantage no other candidate enjoyed. Perez and Dunn were charged federally with wire fraud and providing false statements to law enforcement officials. Both served short prison sentences.
Mayor Joe Ganim, who was not charged with criminal wrongdoing, selected his long-time friend Perez as permanent chief. Permanent in that case was relative as Perez did not fulfill the five-year contract stymied by the federal probe.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has been retained by the city to supervise the current search soup to nuts the latest oral evaluation phase whittled down to 11 candidates “by experts chosen by the IACP,” according to a news release issued by the city on Tuesday.
An oral test score of at least 75 was required to make the latest cut.
“The third phase will be open to these eleven applicants,” according to the release. “This will be a 100% weighted assessment center process that can involve different job-related exercises. The assessment center process will take place during the final week of August 2022. The preliminary results will be available by the first week of September.”
At some point in September the names of three finalists are scheduled for presentation to Ganim invested by the City Charter to chose a chief among the three, a five-year contract presented to the City Council for approval.
The names of the finalists have not been released. The names, nor the backgrounds, of “experts chosen” to evaluate have not been released.
Four years ago, dubious lobbying of those in control of the search became an issue. Transparency cuts both ways. Holding back names shields stakeholders from subjugation, lobbying and influence.
Withholding candidate names in the early phases of personnel searches in not new. City legal counsel takes the position that revealing the names of candidates could compromise their current job placements and privacy. For instance, the names of finalists in the search for a personnel director last year were not released.
That doesn’t preclude candidates from disclosing their application. Acting Chief Rebecca Garcia and former Assistant Chief James Nardozzi are among those who volunteered their interest in the top cop spot.
The city early in the process, with the blessing of the IACP, conducted community hearings for public input into the type of chief residents want for Bridgeport.
In recent weeks as the timeline for selecting a chief has shrunk so too has the information flow.
The Police Department is a cesspool of gossip. Cops are always pissing on each others’ trees. Ganim, considering what happened four years ago, wants to be completely allergic to the process until three names come across his desk.
Ganim’s choice could be straightforward or possibly present a peculiar situation. What if both Garcia and Nardozzi rank in the top three? Garcia is the first Hispanic female to run the department. She has her supporters and detractors in the department and community.
Nardozzi managed to reel in excessive overtime spending during the Bill Finch mayoral years until he was let go by Ganim when he returned to the mayoralty in 2015, a decision weighted heavily by police union campaign support that wanted Nardozzi gone.
Nardozzi received a six-figure settlement from the city after filing a lawsuit contesting his 2016 termination.
Some want a complete break from the present and the past.
The cop house has been a self-inflicted tooth extraction for Ganim. He needs some management and community stability there with his reelection on the line in 2023.
In four weeks or so if the search calendar holds, Bridgeport will have a new chief be (s)he familiar or new.