Madison's mayor and Common Council won't have any input into who the city's next police chief will be.
"I'm really happy about that," says Ald. Paul Skidmore, somewhat jokingly.
He's glad because it means the council won't have to wrestle with the potentially messy politics of such a decision. "The state has taken all the guess work out of it."
Under state law, police and fire chiefs are appointed by the local Police and Fire Commission, or PFC. The commission has its regular monthly meeting on Monday, its first meeting since Chief Noble Wray announced his retirement last Tuesday after 29 years on the force.
Wray said he’ll leave around the end of September. Assistant Chief Randy Gaber will take over as interim chief until the commission appoints a new one.
The commission's attorney, Scott Herrick, says the process can vary greatly but generally takes about four to six months. The length is generally determined by whether the commission decides to conduct an "open search," meaning it will look nationally or even internationally for a new chief.
The commission isn't required to advertise outside the department. It doesn't even have to conduct a search, Herrick says. "We know this PFC is not going to do this, but a PFC could just point its finger at someone and say 'You're the chief.'"
When it appointed Steven Davis as Madison fire chief in January 2012, the commission did not look outside the department. It selected Davis from five internal candidates to replace Debra Amesqua, who retired.
Herrick says he does not know whether finalists will be introduced to the community before a decision is made, as both the Madison school district and the UW-Madison did recently when hiring a new superintendent and chancellor.
But he says finalists are vigorously evaluated. "When searches have been open in the past, commissioners have brought in a short list of candidates to Madison for interviews by the commissioners. In the most recent of those searches, they've gone to the communities where [the candidates have] been and investigated what was there."
Herrick doesn't expect the commission will decide on Monday whether the search will be open or closed. "That's one of the crucial questions they'll talk about. It's so crucial that I doubt they'll even talk about it on Monday other than to acknowledge they need to talk about it. It may very well be that they won't get much done Monday night, except to introduce themselves to the problem."
The police chief's current salary is $137,776 a year, not including benefits.