MERIDEN — The city has released a preliminary list of appointees to the newly formed, nine-member Police Chief Search Committee.
They are City Councilors Michael Cardona and Bob Williams; Mayor Kevin Scarpati; Kim Fisher, president of the Meriden-Wallingford chapter of the NAACP; John Wagner, a Meriden police detective; Rhea Highsmith, central region community relations specialist for Hartford HealthCare; Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson; former City Councilor Anthony Tomassetti; and Efrain Valentin, owner of Valentin Karate.
Scarpati, who the City Council put in charge of appointing committee members, said this week that the list of appointees is not yet finalized and may not be until the council’s next meeting on Dec. 16.
“I’m waiting on a couple of confirmations from some (appointees),” Scarpati said, adding the list was inadvertently published this week as backup material for a City Council agenda.
The search committee resolution passed by the City Council stipulated the panel be comprised of the mayor, three members of the general public, including at least one with experience in public safety (Tomassetti chaired the City Council’s public safety committee for years), two city councilors, including the current 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.
The committee, expected to begin meeting next month, will be responsible for interviewing candidates to replace outgoing chief Jeffry Cossette and recommending a replacement to City Manager Tim Coon.
Cossette technically retired from the city earlier this year and is continuing to work as chief under a contract approved by the City Council. Cardona said the goal is to have Cossette’s replacement begin before Cossette leaves by July 1.
Cardona pushed for the city to form a search committee because he felt it was important to get members of the community involved in filling the “pivotal” position.
In the past, the city has had a search committee handle the hiring process for a new chief in some instances, including when former chief Bill Abbatematteo was hired in July 2001, but not in other instances, including when Cossette was promoted from deputy chief in 2005.
The city has also formed search committees to handle recent city manager searches, Scarpati noted.
“This way you get feedback from members directly engaged with our community to determine what they’d like to see in our next chief other than the obvious credentials you would need to run a police department of our size,” Scarpati said. The city’s police department is the 12th largest in the state.
A number of residents contacted the city about serving on the committee. Scarpati feels the preliminary list is a diverse group that represents the entire community.
The exact process that the committee will take is still being determined, however, Scarpati envisions that the city’s Human Resources Department and possibly other Connecticut police chiefs will prescreen applicants to make sure they’re qualified for the position before the committee conducts its first round of interviews.