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Recruiting Firm’s Stance On Gay Employee Benefits Delays Oakland Police Chief Search

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New Acting Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent (CBS)

Acting Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent (CBS)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland’s search for a new permanent police chief has been delayed a second time because the recruiting firm the city planned to hire was disqualified for denying equal benefits to gay employees.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb said today that the city was set to hire the International Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct the search but the city broke off negotiations recently when it discovered that the firm doesn’t offer benefits for domestic partners of gay employees.

The city has been without a permanent chief since last May 8, when police Chief Howard Jordan suddenly announced that he was retiring for health reasons.

Then-Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio took over the helm but only lasted two days on the job. Sean Whent was appointed interim police chief on May 10, still leads the department and is among those seeking to be appointed permanent chief.

The position of police chief in Oakland has been a revolving door for many years.

Jordan had only been permanent chief for 15 months, since February 2012, before stepping down. He previously had been appointed interim chief in October 2011 when former Chief Anthony Batts abruptly resigned after only two years on the job.

Oakland’s previous chief, Wayne Tucker, lasted less than four years when he announced his retirement in January 2009 after clashing with the City Council.

The first recruiting firm hired by Oakland, Bob Murray & Associates, quit last December after it accused the office of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan of interfering in the selection process.

Sean Maher, Quan’s spokesman, said in a statement today that Quan and City Administrator Fred Blackwell “are in the process of evaluating the full range of alternatives regarding the recruitment of a permanent police chief” and that hiring a chief is “a top priority.”

Maher said, “We recognize that the candidates who have already applied, the men and women of the police department, Interim Chief Whent and the community will all be eager to know the next steps in this important process.”

He said, “The timeline to name a permanent chief would depend on the specific alternative we choose to pursue. We will keep the City Council and public apprised of the decision once it has been finalized, and we appreciate everyone’s patience through this transition.”

Kalb said more than 30 people applied for the chief’s job when Bob Murray & Associates was conducting the search so the city already has many candidates for the job.

Some people have said that it might be tricky for Quan to name a permanent chief this year because she faces a difficult re-election campaign in which many candidates plan to run against her.

But Kalb said the city should still try to hire a new permanent chief soon because, “We need a permanent chief since it’s not good to have an interim chief on a long-term basis.”

He said, “If we find some high-quality people who want the job even knowing that the mayor’s race is going on, what’s the problem in hiring them?”

Kalb said the city should hold off on naming a permanent chief only if it finds that people are reluctant to take the job in an election year.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police didn’t respond to a request to comment on its benefits policy for gay employees.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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