UNA Police Chief search moves to phase two

The group tasked with finding a new police chief for UNA could have a tough time making a decision.

That is thanks to the large number of applicants and the “outstanding qualities” they bring to the table, officials said.

“I’ve looked at the applicants, and we have some extremely talented people,” said Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields. “I’m pleased with the pool we have. It’s a very strong pool of people from a variety of backgrounds.”

The search committee, which includes students, faculty, staff and community members, has reviewed roughly 40 applications for the position and narrowed the pool to 10.

“There could have been more applicants who didn’t make it past our criteria levels,” Shields said. “That shows the amount of interest people had in the university.”

Officials look to fill the position left vacant when Bob Pastula retired at the end of 2014.

The search committee is wrapping up the next phase of the process this week by conducting phone interviews with the 10 finalists.

While the initial candidate evaluations look primarily at job qualifications, phone interviews examine the candidates’ individual talents, Shields said.

“We’re looking for those who have the skill sets that we think will work here, and we don’t know what talents and skills are out there until we see the pool,” he said. “What these interviews now do is see who could move to the next level.”

Once phone interviews are completed, the committee chairman, Francis Koti, Chair of the Geography Department, will work with Shields to choose three to five candidates to bring to campus.

“They’ll meet with everybody — me, the president, the Student Affairs staff, students and the public,” he said. “They’ll make a public presentation and meet with the search committee. The idea is to get as many people as possible to meet the candidates, offer feedback on the candidates and help us to identify who our best chief of police will be.”

Officials said the campus visits will resemble those held during the recent presidential search process that brought Ken Kitts to UNA.

Senior Adam McCollum, one of the two student search committee members, said he looks forward to seeing the candidates interact with students.

“In person, you really get to see how they relate to people,” McCollum said. That’s one of the big things we need to find is someone who is comfortable around students. That comfort level is not something you can see on paper. You actually have to meet the person to find out.”

Shields said the search process is also a time for developing new ideas about how to improve campus.

“Every search process is a mutual-selection process,” Shields said. “We try to find the best candidates, and the candidates evaluate us as a university. You’ll see how a person interacts with folks, how people relate to them and that’s why it’s so important to have as many people as possible come to the public presentation.”

Until a new chief is appointed, Mark Parker fills the position temporarily. He said he has entered his name in the search, but for right now, his focus is on maintaining the safe environment at UNA.

“That’s the great thing about the search–we already have someone here who can maintain the level of safety we have at UNA,” Shields said. “Mark Parker is doing a great job, so we don’t have to rush in finding a chief. Like I said before, our goal is finding the right chief.”