A citizen-led search committee on Monday selected five finalists for the St. Paul police chief post, only one of whom comes from outside the department.
Now the hiring decision falls to Mayor Melvin Carter, who plans to make an offer to a candidate later this fall, after a pair of community forums and private interviews. Carter's selection will require approval from the City Council.
The finalists are Jacqueline Bailey-Davis, a 25-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department currently serving as police staff inspector in the standards and accountability division/audits and inspections unit; Pamela Barragan, St. Paul police's unit commander for community partnerships; Kurtis Hallstrom, senior commander of St. Paul's eastern district; Axel Henry, commander for St. Paul's narcotics, financial intelligence and human trafficking division; and Stacy Murphy, St. Paul's assistant chief of police.
"Selecting a police chief is one of the most critical decisions a community must make," Carter said in a statement. "While I look forward to learning more about all of the finalists, our city is blessed to be served by a department with such strong internal candidates."
Only two candidates from outside the department have been hired as chief in the past century, according to the St. Paul Police Historical Society. The city has never appointed a female chief, though Kathy Wuorinen filled the role in an interim capacity for two months in 2016.
The public will have the opportunity to engage with candidates at upcoming forums, at Washington Technology Magnet School at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 and the St. Paul Event Center at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 12. The events will be livestreamed on the city's Facebook page. Residents can provide feedback and submit questions for candidates ahead of time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hiring process, which is laid out in the city's charter, has been on the minds of many in St. Paul since last fall, when former Police Chief Todd Axtell announced he would not seek a second six-year term at the department's helm.
Carter appointed Jeremy Ellison, formerly a deputy police chief overseeing support services and administration, to serve as interim chief once Axtell retired in June. Ellison did not apply for the permanent role.
The new chief will inherit a department prioritizing its gun violence prevention and response efforts, a reaction to escalating crime trends in recent years. Carter has proposed a 2023 budget of $130 million for the department, which continues to face a staffing shortage in the wake of a pandemic hiring freeze and uptick in officer departures.
About two dozen members of the search committee — which was appointed by the City Council and includes representatives of nonprofits, businesses, the NAACP, other public agencies and the police union — met for two hours Monday to vote on the finalists. The candidates were not named during the meeting.
According to city staff, about 40 people applied for the job, but only 18 met the job posting's minimum qualifications. Last month, the search committee winnowed the candidate pool to eight contenders, six of whom work for St. Paul police.
One external candidate withdrew from the contest last week after receiving another job offer, according to the city's human resources staff. A Texas-based search firm hired by the city recorded interviews with the remaining seven for search committee members to view before Monday's meeting.
"I think the questions that were posed focused on the kind of city we both are and that we want to be — thinking about diversity and inclusion, procedural justice, the kinds of communities that exist in St. Paul," said Sasha Cotton, co-chair of the search committee.
The group's conversation ranged from members' personal interactions with applicants to their responses to interview questions, particularly one about how the candidates would groom more women and people of color for leadership roles within the department.
"I don't have any doubt in my mind that any of the five will be a great chief," said Kathy Lantry, the committee's other co-chair.
The first year of the new chief's six-year term will be considered a probationary period of sorts, meaning the mayor can remove the chief with council approval. After that, a chief can be fired only for cause by the mayor with the votes of at least five of the council's seven members.
The new chief will be paid $130,000 to $182,000 a year, depending on his or her experience and qualifications.
Last week, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey nominated a veteran law enforcement official from Newark, N.J. — whom he heralded as a "change-maker" — to be the city's next police chief. The appointment of Frey's pick, Brian O'Hara, will be contingent on approval from the Minneapolis City Council.