Kelly Announces Timeline & Community Meetings To Select Chattanooga’s Next Police Chief

Photo Credit: Mayor Tim Kelly / Facebook

By Ellis Smith –

Mayor Tim Kelly announced on Thursday the timeline to select Chattanooga’s next police chief, and started gathering community input as part of a process that will include a series of community meetings to drive accountability and transparency.

The Mayor’s Office will host meetings with residents across the city to help identify the qualities needed in our next chief, and to take residents’ top public safety priorities into account. The mayor will leverage feedback from these meetings to drive the final selection of Chattanooga’s next police chief in February.

“Chattanooga’s next police chief must have a demonstrated commitment to civil rights and community policing, the ability to spur a strong culture of accountability within the department, and a track record of successfully keeping residents safe,” said Kelly. “This will be an equitable and public process, and I have directed my staff and our partners to ensure that we work alongside our neighbors in the spirit of transparency to find the best chief for Chattanooga.”

To ensure a fair, transparent and ethical process, the Mayor’s Office and City Council have engaged the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a police research and policy organization with 30 years’ experience helping local governments recruit qualified police chief candidates. 

PERF has assisted with more than 75 executive searches in the last ten years and has also coordinated several successful searches during the pandemic. The City previously contracted with PERF for a police chief search in 2014. That search resulted in the hire of Chief Fred Fletcher.

Community Engagement Process Begins Immediately

The community engagement process to select Chattanooga’s next police chief will start immediately, and will include neighbors, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and other key stakeholders involved in the work of public safety, criminal justice, human services and public health.To kick off the process, Mayor Kelly invites all Chattanoogans to participate in a brief survey at about their priorities for the next chief of police. The survey includes the following four questions:

  1. What qualities are most important to you in our next Police chief?
  2. What are the most important priorities for our next Police chief?
  3. What are the most important public safety needs in your neighborhood?
  4. If you could ask one question in the interview process, what would you ask?

The online survey link will be made available on the City of Chattanooga website and through its various social-media platforms, on NextDoor, and through targeted outreach to neighborhood associations and local media.

Residents who lack access to the internet may call 311 and complete the survey by phone. Residents who complete the survey will be invited to attend one of the virtual community input sessions via Zoom on one of the following dates:

·         Thursday, October 21 – 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET

·         Thursday, October 28 – 6:00 – 7:30 PM ET·        

·        Monday, November 1 – 6:00 – 7:30 PM ET


National Search Open to Local Applicants

The national search process will be open to local applicants, including current police department personnel. 

PERF will actively recruit as well as post the position with professional organizations such as:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • National Black Police Officers Association
  • National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
  • Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
  • Other regional and state police chief associations.

PERF will also conduct targeted outreach to police executives to identify outstanding candidates and encourage them to apply for the position. PERF will work with the Mayor’s Office on assembling a candidate-review committee charged with ensuring Chattanooga identifies candidates with a track-record of innovation and community engagement, with a commitment to civil rights and public safety. 

In addition, PERF will conduct a survey of all current department employees and engage employee representatives such as the Fraternal Order of Police.

Toward the end of 2021, the Mayor’s Office and PERF will score and rate applicants for the chief of police position. This review committee will then review the top tiers of qualified candidates and recommend a roster for advancement to the interview process.

Mayor Kelly will announce an interview committee — representing a diverse set of community voices, ideas, and perspectives — to assist in interviewing semi-finalists and finalists. Finalists will travel to Chattanooga to interview in person with the interview panel and Mayor Kelly. With input from the panel, Mayor Kelly will select the next chief of police to be appointed to the City Council for confirmation.


Following is the timeline for the chief of police selection process:

October 14, 2021Chief selection process announced; Community and neighborhood engagement begins.PERF begins the process of reaching out to potential candidates nationwide.
Late OctoberPERF surveys existing CPD employees on job satisfaction, priorities.
November 5, 2021Community and neighborhood engagement process concludes.
November 8, 2021City and PERF review and analyze data from community engagement.
November 12, 2021Based upon aggregated community feedback, candidate profiles and job posting finalized.
November 15, 2021Position announcement posted and advertised nationally for 30 days.
December/JanuaryApplication period closes and internal committee reviews candidate pool; field narrowed to candidate pool of semi-finalists and finalists.
Late JanuarySemi-finalist interviews.
FebruaryFinalists meet with Mayor Kelly and community interview panel.Extensive background check conducted on finalists.
End of FebruaryMayor announces selection of new police chief for confirmation by City Council.

About the Author: Ellis Smith is the Director of Special Projects for the City of Chattanooga. Follow Ellis on Twitter @ellisthered

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