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Professional panel to help choose Bridgeport police chief

October 5, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration has introduced a new wrinkle to a police chief search that some have predicted will conclude with the mayor picking his friend, acting top cop Armando Perez.

Hearst Connecticut reported that the Civil Service Office had been assembling a committee of community representatives to whittle the list of seven semi-finalists down to three. Ganim would award a five-year contract to one of those three.

That process was criticized after City Hall said it would not identify the selection committee members or the organizations they represent.

Activist groups including Bridgeport Generation Now had sought a seat on the committee. Generation Now has demanded policing reforms in the wake of controversial incidents — including a rookie officer’s 2017 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jayson Negron last year.

But Civil Service Director David Dunn has announced that, instead of community leaders, a professional, five-person panel has been assembled to interview the seven semifinalists. That panel includes two police chiefs from out-of-town, two human resources professionals and an individual with municipal management experience, he said.

Dunn, in a publicly available report on the chief search provided to his Civil Service Commission, wrote that the professional panel was chosen “for reasons including objectivity and due to the number of qualified semi-finalist candidates.” Dunn wrote that the move was recommended by Randi Frank, the headhunter hired earlier this year to help with the search for a chief.

“Ms. Frank will serve as facilitator as the panel conducts oral interviews to examine, rate and rank semi-finalist candidates,” Dunn told the Civil Service Commission late last month. The three highest ranked applicants will then be forwarded to Ganim, who at that point has the option of convening a group of community leaders to help him make a final choice.

“The mayor may elect to seek advice and input from pertinent city department heads, and/or other internal staff, as well as representatives of relevant public bodies — the City Council, Police Commission, etc. — and/or select external stakeholders — various community, civic, religious organizations, etc — concerning his process of evaluation and selecting his appointee,” Dunn wrote.

Despite the change in the process, much of the details are still being kept under wraps, including the names of the professional panelists and the date that group will meet with the seven semi-finalists.

The state Freedom of Information Act does not apply to records of personnel search committees that “would reveal the identity of an executive-level employment candidate.” But Thomas Hennick, the FOIA Commission’s public education officer, in September told Hearst Connecticut Media that waiver does not include members of personnel search panels.

The identities of the seven semi-finalists are also not known, although Hearst Connecticut Media has confirmed three: Perez; ex-Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi, who has a lawsuit pending over the mayor’s terminating his job in January 2016; and Captain Roderick Porter, the Bridgeport department’s highest ranked black officer.

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