The search is on for Nashville’s new police chief, and as the city seeks applicants from across the United States, officials are rewriting the requirements to fit the department’s current needs.
WPLN News compared the new job description with the last one that was written back in 1980. The changes highlight a new set of priorities for the next top officer.
Officials hope the new chief will be able to build trust, particularly in neighborhoods with a heavy police presence. The word “trust” appears three separate times in the three-page document.
There’s also new language about the importance of maintaining “effective working relationships with community groups and other government departments and agencies.” That seems to be a nod to the Community Oversight Board. Former Chief Steve Anderson and the civilian agency have repeatedly butted heads since the group was established.
Plus, the revised job posting emphasizes the importance of modernization and innovation. There are multiple references to “21st century” policing — reforms that stem from an Obama-era study of law enforcement practices.
Some specific additions to the job description include:
- Thorough knowledge of 21st century policing pillars and evidence-based practices
- Working knowledge of community policing and engagement strategies
- Working knowledge of procedural justice/legitimacy, bias and cultural responsiveness and/or crisis-intervention training
- Skill in enhancing community engagement and increasing levels of trust
- Ability to build trust, particularly with communities that typically have high rates of investigative and enforcement involvement
But the new chief won’t solely be focused on external relations. He or she will also be expected to boost morale within the rank and file by “promoting employee health, well-being, and job satisfaction.”
The department has struggled for years to recruit and retain officers — especially women and people of color. Nearly 70 of the police force’s 1,511 budgeted positions are unfilled at the moment, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department. And just 11% of officers are Black and about 10% are women, even though the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the city is approximately 28% Black and 52% female.
To reach a larger pool, the next chief won’t need as much leadership experience — just three years in management, instead of five. The mayor’s office also says it will advertise the position with a wide range of law enforcement organizations, including groups that support Black, Latino and female officers.
Officials have asked residents to share their hopes for the next chief in a survey on hubNashville. In addition, the Community Oversight Board plans to host virtual forums in the coming weeks, where residents will have the opportunity to share the qualities they’d like to see in the police department’s new leader.
The mayor expects to choose Anderson’s replacement by October. His last day was Friday.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.