New London posts vacant police chief's position

New London — Public notification for the city’s open police chief’s position started last week and locally on Sunday with one in a series of eye-catching, full-page advertisements in The Day newspaper.

And while it’s clear in the language of the ad that the city is looking to shed the past turmoil associated with former Chief Margaret Ackley, city officials said it is not meant in any way as a slight against her.

“New London is a demanding and complex community which offers unique challenges to policing,” the ad reads. “The previous Chief of Police was in the position for seven years with what can only be described as a poor climate in the labor management relationship.”

Ackley, who retired in January, often had butted heads with police union leadership and has a long pending breach of contract suit against the city, which did not endear her to city leaders past or present. Union leaders also had blamed Ackley for low morale at the department and the departure of many officers. City officials agree that trend has since turned around under the leadership of acting police Chief Peter Reichard.

New London Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields, a retired state police lieutenant colonel, helped craft the language of the ad with city Personnel Director Tina Collins.

“The only thing we point out is there was a labor management strife with the last police chief. We want candidates with experience in that area,” Fields said. “I can’t reiterate enough, this has nothing to do with the past administration.”

Fields said the detail in the description of who the city wants is purposeful and aimed at giving candidates as much information as possible.

"It’s a small urban dynamic community with an extremely diverse population with many challenges,” Fields said. “Our intent was to describe us and what our expectations are. We want people to be informed and not come and apply and learn about the place.”

The city prefers someone with experience at a New England police department and someone with knowledge of predictive crime analysis, crime prevention, community and proactive policing and a strong background in solving quality-of-life issues, Fields said.

The ad is posted on several online job hunting sites, such as Monster, PoliceApp, Indeed and DiversityJobs.com, and Facebook/ThedayJOBS. The city paid The Day $2,250 to run the advertisement locally on four different days. Fields said the local ad will help spread information about the position online and through word of mouth across the state. There also is a link to the ad on the city’s website, along with a four-page formal job description.

The minimum requirements for the position, among other things, include 15 years in a police supervisory position, which includes six years above the command level, or captain’s position, which rules out anyone aside from Reichard at the department.

The closing date for applying is Aug. 18 and the cover letter and resume will be graded. The top 25 percent of the candidates will answer a list of questions, not unlike a written exam, related to community challenges they might have faced throughout their careers. Fields said as opposed to an oral exam alone, as was conducted in 2009, a written portion will show candidates' writing skills, which will be important for reports and public communications.

Two applicants already have submitted resumes: one from Connecticut and another from Pennsylvania.

Fields said he is forming a search committee to aid in the selection of top candidates and plans to include the “meet and greet” for the public to ask questions of the top four candidates. Mayor Michael Passero will make the ultimate decision on who becomes the next police chief.

Based on Reichard's experience and job performance, both Fields and Passero expect him to apply and be received favorably.

“He has indicated he has a strong interest in the job and he has a lot invested in the community,” Fields said.

Passero went further in his praise for Reichard and said the only reason he didn’t outright appoint Reichard is both Passero and Fields wanted a fair, open and competitive process to ensure the best candidate is chosen.

Based on Reichard's job performance to date, Passero said, he will have a jump on other candidates.

Reichard is a 22-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department who retired from that department as an assistant chief of investigations in 2010 and later worked as vice president of corporate protective services at Bank of America before coming to New London in 2012.

Reichard said he will be applying for the job but has no inside track on how his application will be reviewed.

Passero said Reichard has gained a lot of support in his time as acting chief and anyone applying for the chief’s position will understand it’s a fair process but, “also know there is a favorite son.”

g.smith@theday.com

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