South Bend police chief search goes nationwide

The last time the City of South Bend went outside its own ranks to hire a police chief was prior to World War II.

But breaking that tradition became a possibility today as the search for a new chief officially went nationwide.

“I think we need options, we need to make sure that we have the best options available to us and the best candidate may be right here in the building, and the best candidate may not be right here in the building, and there’s no reason to close that off on either side,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend.

Today’s announcement also means that the search for a permanent chief is just getting started, some five months since former Chief Boykins was demoted, and Interim Chief Hurley was appointed.

“This is an extremely sensitive and complex process and it’s not the kind of thing you want to do casually. Mr. Wasserman is not the only person we considered engaging or spoke to. We reviewed proposals from a number of firms or professional organizations that do this.
We wanted to be sure we got it right,” said Mayor Buttigieg.

Today, Robert Wasserman of Strategic Policy Partnership, LLC was hired to lead the search.

It’s something the Massachusetts based consultant has done before. “I did Oakland, California which is probably one of the more complex policing environments in the country, I’ve done New Rochelle, New York, I’ve done Burlington, Vermont,” Wasserman said.

Wasserman will not only advertise the opening from coast to coast, he’ll do some creative coaxing to attract candidates.

“I think it’s really important to describe the, it’s the nature of the environment and the kind of individual who is being sought and then it’s reach out to get folks to apply who normally may not actually think of applying because they’re in a position that they’re quite happy with.”

If the best candidate for the job in South Bend happens to come from beyond the city’s borders, it would break a long streak of hiring chiefs from within the South Bend Police Department. “I know it’s been a long time, I don't remember the year but I want to say it may have been in the 40’s,” said Buttigieg.

Actually it was in 1939, “Bill Ingram, and Bill was on the department in 1939, he stayed with the department until ’43,” said Donald Cornelis, Police Historian.

William Ingram came from Wichita, Kansas to take the chief’s job in South Bend. Ingram was appointed by Mayor Jesse Pavey who ran on a pledge to reorganize the police department.

According to Cornelis, Ingram quickly earned the nickname “School Boy.”

“He was a book man, he knew everything that had to be,” said Cornelis. Ingram had also served as the Dean of Police Science at the University of Wichita.

“At that time around the country Wichita was noted for all the well trainer personnel that they had on their department,” said Cornelis.

In fact, newspaper articles indicate that officers from Wichita were also tapped to become chief’s in Flint, Michigan and in Honolulu, Hawaii.

As for Ingram, he created controversy in South Bend when he ordered 10 officers who each had at least 22 years of service to take physical examinations to determine if they were fit for service.

As a result, eight of the men were forced to retire.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg today made it clear that he expects qualified applicants to come from both inside and outside the department, and he wants to consider both.

Running a nationwide search will cost the city $6,800, according to Mayor Buttigieg. The fee is devoted to paying for Wasserman’s staff, as Wasserman himself has offered his services for $1.

The city will face additional costs for candidate background checks and for advertising.

Wasserman happens to be living in South Bend while his wife cares for an elderly relative.

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