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City Heights To Weigh In On San Diego’s Police Chief Search

Have thoughts on the police chief search? Tell us at the KPBS Listening Post Wednesday at noon in City Heights.

A colorful pillar in City Heights identifies the San Diego neighborhood.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: A colorful pillar in City Heights identifies the San Diego neighborhood.

What are the top priorities the city of San Diego's next police chief must address? What are the top characteristics he or she must possess?

These are the questions City Heights residents will consider at a city-hosted forum on hiring San Diego's next police chief. It will be the fourth of six forums the city organized to collect community input on the best candidate to replace retiring San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

The City Heights-based nonprofit Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, which distributed flyers and promoted the event on social media, said it expects more than 100 people to attend. Policy Advocate Tareq Haidari said surveying the community is important because the new chief will have a lasting impact.

"They’ll be here for a foreseeable future and they'll have a big influence on how policing is done throughout our city, and with the state of policing throughout the nation, it’s very critical that we have high level of civic engagement," Haidari said.

City of San Diego Spokeswoman Perette Godwin said the information collected at the public events will be compiled and provided to a recruitment firm.

"Then the firm will use the data to develop selection criteria, interview materials and candidate qualifications, so this is why it’s so important for us to have the community involved in this process," said Godwin, who noted that video footage of past forums is available on the city's website.

The city has not yet announced the name of the company but Godwin said that could happen this week.

Godwin said the city is also leveraging social media to spread the word about the forums, including Nextdoor, which allowed the city to target specific communities when forums were happening in those areas.

The 6 p.m. event on Wednesday at the Mid-City Gym will include Spanish and Somali translation, the latter being provided by Mid-City CAN. The group is among a coalition of organizations that have criticized the city's hiring process because it includes a confidential panel to conduct candidate interviews.

Mid-City CAN and other community and legal groups are calling for a publicly identified panel that includes appointed members. The groups argue it would increase transparency and enhance public involvement. Some city council members have echoed their concerns.

However, the city has said it wants to keep the selection panel members initially concealed in order to reduce the risk of lobbying.

The next public forum of hiring the city's new police chief is Wednesday evening at the Mid-City Gym in City Heights.

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