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Early steps in police chief search set to begin this week

City Manager Doug Hewett says a recruitment firm plans to meet with focus groups as it looks to build a profile for Fayetteville’s next top cop


City Manager Doug Hewett will work with a Chapel Hill-based recruiting firm as he looks to find a new police chief to succeed Gina Hawkins.

The city has contracted with Developmental Associates, a firm the city worked with during its last search for Fayetteville’s top law enforcement officer. It also has worked with the firm to fill other positions, including an assistant city manager and an economic and community development director.

Hawkins, who has been chief since 2017, plans to retire in January.

Developmental Associates is expected to facilitate internal and external focus groups starting this week, Hewett said Thursday. The firm will work with line officers and command staff in the Police Department as well as members of the City Council and community groups to gather information about the skills and abilities members of those groups would like to see in the next police chief, Hewett said.

“Where do we go from here?’’ Hewett said, will be the key question.

Hewett said he hopes to see an online component that allows members of the public to weigh in as well.

Information from the focus groups will be used to create a candidate profile. Once the profile has been refined, Hewett said, he hopes to have the position posted to begin accepting applications by the end of the month.

The candidate profile should address the opportunities and challenges in the community, he said.

Hewett said he plans to review the submissions with the recruiter after 30 days while continuing to accept applications.

Developmental Associates has helped recruit police and fire chiefs for several towns and cities across the state, the firm says in its proposal to the city. They include Winston-Salem, Burlington, Wilson, Chapel Hill and Durham.

The firm says it uses several methods to evaluate candidates, including interviews, online surveys that require short essay answers, skills-based exercises that simulate the responsibilities of the position — such as making a budget presentation and resolving human resources issues — and a psychological inventory that assesses things like problem-solving, assertiveness and teamwork.

Hewett said there is a “great deal of rigor’’ in the process used by Developmental Associates. The process will require candidates to show their skills for the job, he said.

He said he would like to present the top candidates to the community at a public forum where audience members can ask questions, similar to what was done in 2017.

Steve Straus, the president and founder of Developmental Associates, will be the lead consultant, according to the proposal sent to the city. Members of his team will include Heather Lee, Kerr Putney, Pat Bazemore and Holly Danford-Bishop. Lee is a partner at Developmental Associates, and Danford-Bishop is the client services manager. Putney retired as chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and Bazemore was police chief in Cary.

“For the right person, I think this is really going to be a great opportunity,’’ Hewett said.

Fayetteville, police chief, Developmental Associates