The search for the next Redwood City police chief is underway, and city officials said they hope to have a leader for the department by May.
At a community meeting to discuss the topic, Teri Black, a headhunter hired by the city to recruit the next chief, told the residents that city officials did not plan to “settle” on just any candidate should they not make the May deadline. The posting for the chief's job went up on Monday.
“We'll have to devise a Plan B, and there are several options,” Black said during Saturday’s meeting. “We'll kind of worry about that behind the scenes, but I'm optimistic that we'll be successful.”
The city could install an interim chief to fill the gap between Redwood City Police Department Chief Dan Mulholland’s departure and the incoming police chief, said Black.
But Mulholland, who will retire this year after nearly 40 years with the department, five of those as chief, is “hoping not to have an interim,” said City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz.
“(Mulholland)’s hoping that we can time this just right so that he can retire…and that we’ll have the new chief start immediately,” Stevenson Diaz said. “That’s best case, and that’s what we’re planning for.
“But I won’t ask anybody whom I don’t have confidence in to serve in that role,” she added.
Because the city has what’s called a council-manager form of government, it’s the responsibility of Stevenson Diaz to hire administrative staff, including the chief of police and the chief of the fire department. The city council appoints the city manager, the attorney and the clerk, and makes appointments to boards and commissions, according to the city.
Hiring the “right candidate” does not come without its challenges, many of which were brought up as concerns by those who attended the community meeting.
Residents asked the city to strongly consider candidates who understand community members from marginalized communities, specifically people of color and people who are unhoused.
According to the United Census Bureau, Redwood City had an estimated population of 81,000, 35.3% of which were Hispanic or Latino, 16.3% of which were Asian, and 2.2% of which were Black. Forty-one percent of the residents were white. About 32% of residents in Redwood City are considered foreign born. Redwood City also had the highest number of unhoused individuals in the county, according to a one-day survey conducted last year by San Mateo County.
Although there may be prejudices, Redwood City resident Barbara Valley said she wanted to see police officers work through them and deal with the community “compassionate and empathetic manner.” Another resident, Jordan Anderson, agreed.
“We have citizens, non citizens, people with green cards, without green cards, all important members of the community and they need to all be dealt with the same,” Valley said.
The chief will also need to be financially competent, residents agreed.
With a salary of somewhere between $224,400 - $302,940, the police chief will lead a department of 97 sworn police officers and 33 professional staff. The police chief will also be responsible for an annual operating budget of about $52 million — roughly 32% of the city’s total annual budget.
Another challenge is a dwindling applicant pool, according to Black, who has helped recruit executive staff for other cities across the Bay Area, including in South San Francisco, San Mateo, San Leandro and Pleasanton.
She said that given “what’s going on in policing these days” and a worldwide pandemic, her team has had as few as two total applicants to up to 50 applicants in other cities where she’s helped recruit chiefs.
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of retired Baby Boomers rose by more than 3 million from 2019 to 2020, leading experts to believe that the country is heading into a workforce gap. Stevenson Diaz said that because more Baby Boomers have retired in the last few years, “there aren’t as many people coming up in the profession of law enforcement.”
“There's not as many people who may want to take on this job in their early 50s, or late 40s,” she added.
Recruitment closes on Feb. 26.