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City: Pool of candidates to be next chief of police consists of 39 people

Chief Eve Thomas announced late last year she'd be retiring this spring.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The non-profit firm screening candidates to be the next Knoxville chief of police says 39 people have applied for the job.

That number includes some internal applicants, and a total of eight applicants who are from Tennessee, according to a release provided Tuesday by Kristin Farley, the city's director of communications.

On Feb. 14, WBIR asked Farley for a list of the applicants. The application process closed Sunday, Feb. 20, according to Farley in a Feb. 15 reply, but it's not a public process.

Farley said in reply to WBIR's request: 

"Per City Council approval on January 11th, the search is being conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

"PERF is a Washington, D.C.-based police research organization and membership association of police professionals. PERF has supported more than 100 police executive searches and provided cities with a highly qualified, diverse, national candidate pool from which to select a new top executive. 

 "Essentially, there would be no public records to request concerning job applications from the City, since this is being handled by an outside firm."

Farley said in Tuesday's update that Mayor Indya Kincannon hoped to hire a new chief to replace Eve Thomas by early May. Thomas announced late last year she'd be retiring.

Thomas is the department's first woman chief.

According to Farley's update Tuesday, the 39 applicants come from 23 states.

"There is a diverse applicant pool regarding race and gender," the release states. It's no more specific than that.

PERF is an independent organization based in Washington, D.C. In addition to helping with police executive searches, PERF conducts research on best practices that it makes available for public and policy discourse.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF, said Tuesday two staff members were handling Knoxville's search and had more specific knowledge about it.

He told WBIR that PERF would look at those who have applied and sort out their resumes. It will compare the pool and the pool's qualifications with what Knoxville and Kincannon want in a chief.

PERF also will look at applicant backgrounds, and identify those who would be good interviews for the position.

"I don't know what my people have told the mayor," Wexler said. "Generally, our role is to work with them in terms of identifying the people who are most qualified and checking backgrounds and doing pre-interviews."

PERF just helped Chattanooga with a police chief search. Each city is different in terms of its needs and the timeframe it takes to help a city fill a position, he said.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly announced Tuesday he's appointed Celeste Murphy, of the Atlanta Police Department, to be the chief. Chattanooga's City Council must approve the appointment, according to WRCB-TV.

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