Residents Petition to Meet Chief Candidates
LOWELL -- With the city manager on the verge of naming of a new police superintendent, a group of residents have filed a petition regarding the search, saying the community should have an opportunity to meet the finalists.
More than 125 residents from neighborhoods across Lowell have signed on to downtown resident Bobby Tugbiyele’s petition.
He submitted the petition titled, “Let us Meet The Finalist(s) For Lowell Police Chief,” to the City Council and City Manager Eileen Donoghue on Friday.
Tugbiyele emphasized the great impact that this position has on every city resident.
“An opportunity to meet the finalists is a chance to start building relationships before that person gets into the job,” he said. “You can find out where the finalists stand on a litany issues, and ensure the community has a say in this.
“We’ll be able to hold the finalists accountable,” he added.
Donoghue on Friday defended the process for hiring the next police leader, stressing it has been the most inclusive police superintendent search in city history.
She held a community forum/listening session early on in the process, gathering input from residents about what they want in their next police superintendent. Donoghue said she has also proactively reached out to groups across the city, including neighborhood representatives, clergy and more.
“This has been the most community outreach in the history of the process for selecting a police superintendent,” Donoghue said.
“I have a very good feel of what our community is looking for,” she added. “I have gone to great lengths to seek out and engage what is important to our community.”
From the get go, Donoghue promised that a final decision on the next police superintendent would be made in August. The city finished its interviews this week, and there will be a decision in the “very near future,” the city manager said Friday.
“The process is moving along as I said it would from the start,” she said.
However, there are plenty of residents who want to pump the brakes on the hiring, and provide more input on the search.
The petition submitted to city officials on Friday included residents from all over the city -- the Acre, downtown, Belvidere, Centralville, Pawtucketville, Highlands, South Lowell and more.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned and invested members of the Lowell Community, value the efforts City Manager Eileen Donoghue has taken to gather our input on this critical hire. We believe that this hire represents a key moment to bring the community back into policing and ensure that whomever is ultimately selected has the opportunity to personally speak on the issues that matter most to our community.
“Our input matters. Our participation also matters. Let us meet the finalist(s) for our next Police Superintendent.”
Tugbiyele added that a citizen advisory committee would offer valuable input during the selection process.
Cambridge last year formed an advisory board for its police commissioner search. The city also held a meet-the-finalist forum. Tugbiyele said there are several more examples of inclusive processes that trump Lowell’s.
“We should take it a step further,” he said. “We should always be proactive, making sure that the relationship between the police and the community is as solid as possible.”
Downtown resident Thaddeus Miles signed the petition. He said it’s important for residents to hear from the finalists -- learning about their priorities and how they would interact with the community.
“Lowell’s a uniquely diverse community with unique challenges,” Miles said. “We should be involved in this process more. We should be able to ask them questions.”
Donoghue reiterated that she has heard from a wide range of citizens, and has gathered their input on the next police leader as she makes this important pick.
“I’m very comfortable with the process,” the city manager said.
The four local finalists for the position are: Deputy Superintendent Deborah Friedl, Deputy Superintendent Raymond “Kelly” Richardson, Captain Kevin Sullivan and Captain Daniel Larocque.
The other two finalists are from Massachusetts departments, including one major city next to Boston.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.