Gary Peterson, a former police chief in California, will help Seattle’s search committee as it prepares a list of candidates to present to Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Seattle’s police-chief search committee has selected a recruiter to help find candidates.
The recruiter, Gary Peterson, a former police chief, assisted Dallas in its most recent hiring of a new police chief.
The city chose an outsider.
Another outside candidate who was a finalist in Dallas is now an insider in Seattle — interim Police Chief Carmen Best, who plans to seek the permanent job.
Seattle officials are still working out the scope and terms of the contract with Peterson’s firm, Public Sector Search & Recruiting in Rocklin, California, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.
Peterson started the firm in August. He previously worked for Ralph Andersen & Associates, where he served as the recruiter for Dallas, as well as San Francisco, Kansas City and Sacramento, California, in their most recent police-chief searches.
San Francisco chose an outsider; Kansas City opted for an inside candidate to lead its department; Sacramento chose an outsider as its first African-American police chief.
As a result of his work in Dallas, Peterson will be keenly aware of Best’s background as he helps conduct the nationwide search to replace Kathleen O’Toole, who stepped down Dec. 31 after 3 ½ years in the post.
Peterson, a former police chief in Martinez, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, has recruited a broad range of senior executives for municipalities, universities and other entities, according to the firm’s website.
The Seattle search committee, consisting of four co-chairs and 21 members, has been asked to present a list of names to Durkan in May. She will make the final selection by June in what many consider to be a mayor’s most important personnel decision.
Best was one of eight finalists in Dallas in a field that included three high-ranking members of that city’s Police Department, according to a June story in The Dallas Morning News.
The job went to U. Renee Hall, a deputy police chief in Detroit, who became the first woman to head the Dallas department.
Hall praised Peterson in a testimonial posted on the Public Sector Search & Recruiting website, calling him “organized, professional and thoughtful.”
San Francisco selected its new chief in December 2016, tapping William “Bill” Scott, a deputy chief in Los Angeles.
Scott’s appointment came after news reports suggested that then-Mayor Ed Lee, who died late last year, favored an inside candidate serving as acting chief after a series of scandals that drove out the previous chief. San Francisco’s police union actively supported the inside candidate.
“I wasn’t looking for a job. I was very happy in L.A.,” Scott told the Los Angeles Times, adding that he was enjoying his work with the LAPD when Peterson contacted him. “It is funny how God works.”
In a testimonial on the Public Sector Search & Consulting website, Scott wrote, “Had it not been for Gary Peterson … I would have not applied.”
Before Scott’s appointment, the news reports raised the concern that outside candidates might be driven away by the perception that the process was stacked in favor of the acting chief.
That’s a common concern whenever an internal candidate — particularly an interim or acting chief — is seeking the job, as is now the case in Seattle.
Best, based on her experience, believes it’s harder to be an inside candidate.
“Some might think it’s easier to be the internal candidate, but I really don’t think that it is,” she said. “While I’m here, I’m being, you know, judged by the work that I am doing. So it’s like a really long interview.”
People are watching the decision making and what’s happening in the organization, she said.
“While I feel confident in my ability, I recognize that I’m being scrutinized the whole time,” Best said, noting that external candidates only undergo interviews and examination of their work history.
Best, 52, doesn’t believe outsiders are scared off when an interim chief seeks the job.
From her vantage point, she said, she knows a lot of people in her profession who have not been deterred.
“In fact, when I applied in Dallas … they had several internal and several external candidates and that didn’t deter anybody,” Best said. “And they actually chose an external candidate.”