A nationwide search for a new Anaheim police chief has generated 43 candidates, with Latino activists hoping the prevailing one will be more responsive to their concerns.
The names of prospects will be forwarded by a Sacramento recruiting firm to City Manager Dave Morgan by Jan. 9. His choice will be discussed publicly by the City Council, which will solicit community comment before making the appointment, a city spokesman said.
"The process is more community-oriented and open, and I think it's going to have good results," City Councilwoman Shirley McCracken said.
Among those promising to comment is Los Amigos of Orange County, a Latino advocacy organization. The group's president, Amin David, was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against outgoing chief Roger Baker, alleging civil rights violations after Baker privately briefed the City Council on the background of Latino activists. The U.S. district court in Santa Ana dismissed the lawsuit, but its ruling has been appealed.
David said activists tried to meet with Baker to discuss improving police patrols and response times in Latino neighborhoods, hiring more Spanish-speaking officers and establishing a Latino advisory committee to meet quarterly with the chief.
"We had no dialogue and no relationship," David said. "It was always delegated to underlings in his department. He refused to meet to talk about our concerns."
Of Baker's departure on Wednesday, David said, "Good riddance."
Complaints about Baker's inaccessibility and poor relations with Latinos, who make up nearly half of the city's 328,000 residents, prompted the city to solicit the public's help in identifying the selection criteria for the new chief.
It was the first time such comment has been sought in the hiring of a City Hall department head.
The search criteria include finding a candidate who "proactively engages an entire community" and "actively reaches out to all of the community's diverse stakeholders."
David said there was no expectation that Baker's successor be a minority, but that the new chief at least be respected for working with diverse communities. He cited Garden Grove Police Chief Joe Polisar, who worked previously in New Mexico and is also president of the International Police Chief's Assn.
"I would dream of a police chief who has those kind of qualifications," David said. "We work very well together in projects that involve the Latino community."
The new chief, who will lead a department with 598 employees, will be paid an annual salary ranging from $118,558 to $177,837, depending on experience. Deputy Police Chief Steve Sain is serving as acting chief.
Baker announced in October that he would end his 29-year career with the department and become police chief in the seaside town of Des Moines, Wash., where he will oversee a much smaller staff of 67.
Baker is credited with keeping crime rates in Anaheim in line with those of other urban cities, and keeping the city safe and calm during the 2002 World Series and the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs. He also oversaw the completion of the West Anaheim Police Station and Community Center, and developed the contract for police services with Disneyland.
McCracken, who has been through the selection process for Baker and the chief before him, said city officials are well aware of the community's concerns and know their decisions will be closely scrutinized.
"The city manager and the council and community have expressed what they want," she said. "I'm sure those will be the things the mayor and the City Council ask about. And hopefully we will select the best candidate for Anaheim."