Charleston leaders prepare for police chief selection process

Leaders are preparing the search for a police chief to lead the city’s top public safety department and shared some insight into the process and timeline.
Published: Jun. 14, 2023 at 5:11 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - City of Charleston leaders are preparing the search for a police chief to lead the city’s top public safety department and shared some insight into the process and timeline.

Mayor John Tecklenburg says the city will be partnering with the non-profit Police Executive Research Forum. The organization is the same entity that helped in the search that selected former Chief Luther Reynolds five years ago.

Councilman Peter Shahid, who leads the Public Safety Committee, says this role is one of the most important within a city.

“Public safety is the number one issue of any local government that has a responsibility to its community. So this has to be a number one priority of finding a replacement for Chief Reynolds. Chief Reynolds set the bar a high standard as to a police chief and even though he was only here for five years, his presence was wonderful he felt and he was beloved as evidenced by the number of people who appeared for his funeral,” Shahid says.

Shahid and Tecklenburg say they are looking for a leader who will continue Reynold’s legacy of transparency and community engagement. The mayor says he anticipates putting up an application with the Police Executive Research Forum in July and keeping it open for at least 30 days. Shahid explains that the organization will help narrow down the applicants by seeing which meet the experience requirements.

“Then after that process, you go through, look at the top numbers and try to do another screening of those to get down to a number of five, six, maybe 10 qualified candidates and you set up an interview process,” Shahid explains.

Shahid says he anticipates a large number of quality applicants and doesn’t want to rush the process. He says it could take through the end of this year and into 2024 if necessary.

“The process is going to include interviewing these individuals, and that would include having an interview committee or interview committees. We broke down into three different committees or groups of committees that did the interview process last time. And that just, it just takes time,” he explains.

Tecklenburg says he hopes to have interviewed finalists and potentially name a new leader by the fall if possible. Charleston is a unique city, so leaders say it’s important to find someone who fits into the fabric and can properly address specific needs.

“We have seen an increase in crime when it comes to drug and weapon related offenses. So, we need somebody who can address that. We had a riot in May of 2020. We had shootings on King Street last year. And now on King Street and our entertainment district we’ve got police officers out there patrolling 20 police officers on Thursday, Friday, Saturday night. So, you’ve got very unique issues in the city of Charleston,” Shahid explains.

For that reason, city officials say while the search is nationwide, they will consider internal and local applicants.

“Someone who professionally knows the business of policing, but also has a heart for the community is the best way I think I can describe it. I also want to point out that we’ll be recruiting without within our own department. Even though this is a nationwide search. We have some very qualified candidates right in house. We’re going to urge them to apply and, frankly, we’re going to have a little extra points for those who know, know, our department well.”

The mayor says he plans to appoint an interim chief in the next 30 days to be the leader on decision during the interview process. Since Chief Reynold’s passing, three deputy chiefs have been sharing the responsibilities of the role.