Why Ex-London Cop Wants Scotland Yard To Consider Phoenix’s Hiring Process

Published: Friday, October 28, 2016 - 9:00am
Updated: Monday, October 31, 2016 - 10:15am
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(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Former London police officer Rory Geoghegan interviews Phoenix Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney about the hiring process.

When Jeri Williams is officially sworn in as Phoenix’s police chief on Oct. 28, she’ll become the first woman to lead the department. She’s also the first chief to undergo a very public interview process that attracted the attention of a former London police officer.

Rory Geoghegan now runs The Centre For Public Safety, a United Kingdom-based non-profit that advocates for what he calls “world class policing.” He likes the way Phoenix picked its chief.

“You can actually involve parts of the community who historically perhaps have been some of the least trusting of police and the least engaged with police,” he said.

Geoghegan met with city staff to learn about Phoenix’s recruitment process which also included community members sitting on interview panels.  

“We didn’t just include people that are historically fans of the police department,” said Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney, who oversaw the process. “There were people on the interview panels that have had issues with the department.” 

The process started a couple months before the city advertised the Chief’s position. City staff held several public meetings and created an online survey to find out what priorities people wanted the department to focus on and what traits people wanted in their chief. Their responses which emphasized integrity, accountability, communication and collaboration led to the actual job description.  

“The police department in particular is in the service business,” Dohoney said. “They’re here to serve 1.5 million people we have as city residents. There doesn’t need to be any mystery in how we do that.”

From 65 applications, the candidates were narrowed to three who participated in what the city dubbed the “finalists forum”, a first in Phoenix. Seated under bright lights, in front of hundreds of people, they answered questions submitted by the public. The 90-minute session was streamed online and broadcast live on the city’s cable channel.

Geoghegan is hopes to spark interest in London and get the public involved in a process that he says is shrouded in secrecy with the Mayor and Home Secretary choosing the top cop who is then appointed by the Queen. 

“I think people once they hear about this way of doing things I think they’ll really go for it,” he said, “I think, you know for kind of centuries, people haven’t had any kind of sight on this process. It’s kind of been that murky world. People haven’t known or had any involvement.” 

In Phoenix, the final hiring decision was made by Ed Zuercher, the city manager. Williams, who started her law enforcement career with Phoenix, replaces Chief Joe Yahner who is retiring after 31 years of public service.

Police Chief Recruitment Timeline

November 2015 – community meetings and online survey to gather input

December 2015 – survey results released

January 2016 – national recruitments begins

April 2016 – ten semi-finalists announced

May 2016 – semi-finalist interview

May 23, 2016 – three finalists announced

June 2016 – finalist interviews

June 6, 2016 – live broadcast of finalists forum

July 13, 2016  - new chief announced

Oct 28, 2016 – Chief Jeri Williams officially sworn in

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