Mayor Danene Sorace on Tuesday outlined a meticulous multi-step procedure for selecting Lancaster city's next police chief, incorporating extensive community input and a nationwide search.
"We are committed to taking the time needed to make the right decision for our community," the mayor said.
On Oct. 2, Sorace unexpectedly announced the retirement of the incumbent chief, Jarrad Berkihiser, at the end of the month. She subsequently said Berkihiser left because he did not share her vision for the police department; Berkihiser has not commented.
A new chief will be chosen as follows, Sorace said:
- Listening sessions will be convened and surveys distributed to gather community input on the attributes desired in a new chief;
- Based on that input, the city will develop and share a job description and key priorities;
- The city will post the job description online; including to the websites of half a dozen professional organizations that Sorace specified;
- A recruitment consultant will be hired to seek out candidates matching the city's desired applicants and encourage them to apply;
- A firm specializing in background checks will investigate applicants;
- An interview panel of city residents, members of law enforcement and other stakeholders will interview candidates and choose two to three finalists for the mayor's consideration;
- The mayor will present her choice to City Council for a vote of consent.
Sorace said conversations about police policy are part of the larger task of promoting racial equity in Lancaster, which she called her No. 1 priority as mayor.
Building a stronger Lancaster is impossible "when significant parts of our community are left out," she said.
The Police Community Working Group
Lancaster's Police Community Working Group will play an important role in the process of choosing the new chief, Sorace said.
In existence about two years, the group is led by co-chairs Delia Sanchez and police Sgt. Donald Morant and works both on long-term policy and on intervening during crises.
It aims to advocate for "black, brown and other marginalized communities and to "build trust, collaboration and mutual understanding and respect among the community and police."
Earlier Tuesday, the working group unveiled its strategic plan, available in English and Spanish. It features more than a dozen strategies divided among four focus areas: Defining and actualizing the group's role; race relations; police hiring; and community engagement.
Among other things, the group plans to have at least four "community conversations" each year on race relationships; to provide its members ongoing training in de-escalation and conflict management; to provide recommendations to the police on hiring, use of force and other policy matters; and to develop a process for handling civilian complaints.
"We're here for everyone," group member Magisterial District Judge Jodie Richardson said. "Please use us."
Chief recruitment sites
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said once the city's job description for a new police chief is completed, it will be posted online, "including but not limited to" the following organizations' sites:
- Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
- International Association of Chiefs of Police
- National Association of Asian American Law Enforcement Commanders
- National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
- National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
- Police Executive Research Forum