BLOOMINGTON — Along with being just and fair, Bloomington's next police chief needs to be someone with inclusion and diversity training, as well as being committed to fostering an open dialogue with all segments of the community.
Those were some of the qualities expressed by more than 15 people Wednesday night about who should replace Police Chief Clay Wheeler after he retires June 21.
But some residents were divided over whether the next chief should be promoted from within the ranks of the Bloomington Police Department or be from outside the community.
"I think we have some very good Bloomington officers who could fill the position rather than reaching out," said Melvin Royston, a Bloomington resident.
But retired educator Camille Taylor said "someone coming in with no history with this community could be a plus." She also would like someone who has a strong background in mental health, homelessness, welcoming cities, and immigration, which are issues the community is dealing with.
"We need to find a police chief who not only has undergone diversity training ... but will train our police force in diversity and de-escalation," said resident Karla Bailey-Smith. "De-escalation training hand in hand with diversity training has been shown to reduce violence against innocent people in other cities."
City Manager Tim Gleason asked the city's Public Safety & Community Relations Board (PSCRB) to help gather community feedback about Wheeler's replacement at its quarterly meeting Wednesday night at the City of Refuge Ministries. The meeting was attended by more than 40 residents.
Wheeler, 52, said his retirement was prompted by his wife's cancer diagnosis. He has been chief since May 2018, succeeding Brendan Heffner, who retired to become U.S. marshal for the central district of Illinois.
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An open house for Wheeler will be from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on June 21 in the Osborn Room at the police department, 305 S. East St.
The feedback Wednesday will be forwarded to Gleason and his selection committee for interviews of any candidates who may come forward.
The deadline to apply for the position is July 7, said Bloomington Human Resources Director Nicole Albertson.
She added the job has been posted, including with the City Managers Association, the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association, GovHR USA online job board, Strategic Government Resources, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Illinois Sheriffs Association.
Finalists will be selected after the internal panel reviews all the applications during the week of July 8. Finalists will be interviewed the second and third weeks of July. The top three finalists will do meet-and-greets with the community during the first week of August.
"We hope to extend a conditional offer (to the top candidate) in August following the meet-and-greets," Albertson said. "Of course you have to do all of your background checking, so we're anticipating an early September start date."