MERIDEN — A nine-member committee will oversee the search for a new police chief to replace current chief Jeffry Cossette.
The City Council unanimously voted this week to form a Police Chief Search Committee, which will be responsible for advertising the job announcement, interviewing candidates, ranking final candidates and recommending that ranking to City Manager Tim Coon.
Committee members will be appointed by unaffiliated Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who will also serve on the committee.
In addition to the mayor, the panel will consist of three members of the general public, including at least one with experience in public safety, two city councilors, including the chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, one member of the police union, one member of the “civil/human rights advocate community,” and one Meriden business owner and resident, according to a resolution passed by the council.
Under an agreement approved by the council this year, Cossette, police chief since 2005, will leave the post on July 1 of next year. Cossette, 58, technically retired in August as part of the agreement but is staying on as interim chief through July 1.
As part of the agreement, Cossette continues to earn a salary of $134,000 and is also receiving a monthly pension of about $8,825, or $105,900 annually, according to the city’s finance department.
Under the contract, Cossette is also entitled to five weeks of vacation and 15 days of sick time as interim chief. The city agreed to compensate Cossette for any unused vacation time when the agreement ends, but not for unused sick time.
The city also agreed to provide Cossette with a vehicle for business and personal use and to pay "the costs of operation, maintenance and repair for the vehicle."
Councilors supported the agreement because they said it would buy the city enough time to conduct a search process and hire a replacement, allowing for an “orderly transition.”
“We need to plan going forward and to do that have to have a clear path as far as when the chief is going to retire,” Republican Councilor Dan Brunet, the council’s Minority Leader, said in July. “Obviously there’s been speculation about (Cossette) retiring for a few years now and at some point, you have to have a definitive answer and this is the best way to achieve that.”
Democratic Councilor Michael Cardona, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, proposed the idea of forming a search committee months back.
“The police chief plays a vital role within the community, which is why I thought it would be critical that the council and the community be involved in the search for Chief Cossette’s replacement,” Cardona said at a meeting this week before the passage of the committee.
“It is also my intent with this resolution,” Cardona said, “that this search be conducted in an open and transparent manner with a diverse group of individuals from the community.”