The law enforcement community seems very interested in the vacancy atop the Omaha Police Department's chain of command.
Sixty-nine people have applied to be Omaha's next police chief, city officials said. That tally includes interim Police Chief David Baker and 10 other current Omaha officers.
Tuesday was the final day for candidates to apply for the job left open by former Chief Alex Hayes' retirement in March.
City officials likely won't disclose the names of any applicants until finalists are selected. What is certain is there's substantial interest in the job from outside candidates — applicants hail from 25 states, including Nebraska.
Originally, officials hoped to have the search for a new chief completed by the end of June. City officials now say the search likely won't end until August.
Officials said the application window was extended to allow more outside candidates to apply for the position and because of scheduling issues with I/O Solutions, a national public safety testing firm retained by the city for the search.
The candidates are nearly all male; only six applicants are female.
The applicant pool is also largely white. Fourteen applicants say they are black or Hispanic, while one is of Asian descent.
Mayor Jim Suttle is responsible for hiring the city's next police chief. The consensus is that the city's next chief needs to bring some continuity to a relatively young department — the new hire will be Omaha's fourth police chief in 4½ years.
The last three men to hold the chief's job were promoted from within the Police Department, and all turned in retirement papers before they turned 50. They will collect six-figure annual pensions for the rest of their lives.
Suttle has said any internal candidate's proximity to retirement will “be a big factor in my mind.”
Candidates applied for the job through a posting on the city's website or through other national law enforcement job boards. Emails were also sent to members of national police organizations.
The number of applicants in the pool isn't particularly surprising for a city the size of Omaha, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C. The think tank has assisted with police chief searches in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City, Mo.
The smaller the city, he said, the more applicants. Only 30 applied for the Los Angeles job. “People self-select themselves out,” he said.
At the same time, a city is better off having five or 10 superior applicants than hundreds.
“The number of applicants says very little,” Wexler said. “What you're looking for is the quality and the experience.”
While the organization has not assisted in the Omaha search, the Omaha police chief job was posted on the forum's job board as well as that of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where it was marked as a “preferred job.”
All candidates will be required to complete a training and experience questionnaire. Candidates will be selected for interviews based on their experience, and they'll face a panel interview from police chiefs around the country.
After that, the police chief panel will develop a list of eligible candidates. Five finalists will be selected for final interviews before the mayor and a panel of community leaders.
World-Herald staff writer Julie Anderson contributed to this report.
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