It’s been 14 months since former Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner resigned from his post, but the Statesboro Police Department is set to start another calendar year without a police chief.
The Statesboro Police Department has been operating under the direction of Major Robert Bryan, serving as Interim Chief, since Turner’s departure, but the road to finding a permanent replacement seems anything but cheap and easy.
For some time, the City pondered what position was most important to fill first: a police chief or a city manager – a position that had been vacant for almost two and a half years. The point of contention was whether or not the council should hire a police chief or if a city manager, who would directly oversee the operations of a police chief, should be responsible for the task. Ultimately, the city continued to seek candidates for both positions and a new city manager was hired in September of this year.
Since then, the City of Statesboro has faced scrutiny after the city vetted 21 candidates, narrowed the field to three finalists, hosted a Meet & Greet reception for the public, and then abandoned the three candidates to announce their desire to start over.
Based on information obtained through an Open Records Request with the City of Statesboro, taxpayers footed the $10,097.82 bill for the search only to come up empty handed.
The City spent $1,536.02 advertising the position, $981.31 in hotel costs, food, gas, and mileage reimbursements, and just over $1,000.00 on the public reception at Sea Island Bank over the summer. The most costly expense, however, was the $6,487.11 spent to conduct investigations and background checks on the three final contenders.
- $425 was spent investigating Herbert Blake
- $2,793.13 was spent investigating Charles Sikes
- $3,268.98 was spent investigating Saundra Rhodes
Almost a month after the Meet & Greet with the public, the City announced that none of the candidates vetted would be hired and they would be looking to a recruiting firm out of North Carolina for help.
In a letter dated October 6, 2016, also obtained through Open Records Requests, NC-based Developmental Associates proposes a basic fee of $23,000 to bring candidates to the city on a silver platter. Included in the fee would be screenings of candidates, analyses of candidates, coaching and feedback for candidates, and background checks for in- and out-of-state contenders.
Additional fees charged to the City of Statesboro would include facilities and meals for Developmental Associates employees during the assessment process and other candidate activities and the basic fee could increase if the City of Statesboro requests background checks be conducted on site instead of from North Carolina.
No invoice was provided in the Open Records Request filed by AllOnGeorgia so it is unclear where exactly in the recruiting process the City remains, but no payments have been made to Developmental Associates as of publishing – at least not for the recruitment of a police chief.
Members of the community have expressed concern about the perennial vacancy and recently, neighboring Brooklet Police Chief Doug Meyer blamed the City for the uptick in crime in a letter to the Editor in the Statesboro Herald, “The droning and now seemingly eternal Statesboro police chief search process is a debacle: There remains no fixed, appointed organizational leader for the PD, there is no decisive political leadership in actually appointing one, and there is no sense of urgency about taking care of the deadly business at hand. The thugs know this.”
One thing is for certain: Whoever does assume the role of police chief has their work cut out. Retention and pay remain a huge problem in the city. The Statesboro Police Department has lost 17 officers in 2016 and at least 12 positions for sworn officers remain open.