The retirement of Police Chief Sam Dotson represents a new day for public safety in St. Louis. While your choice of the new chief will have a major impact on the City of St. Louis and on your success as mayor, we believe that the process by which you select the new chief will communicate clearly to the city and the region what kind of administration you will have, the culture you hope to develop in City Hall, and what kind of leader you aim to be.
Thus, as you begin this hiring process, we call on you to listen not only to your cabinet and advisors, but also to the people you will serve these next four years.
We encourage you to develop a search process that will:
- Have a national scope, inviting applications from across the country;
- Seek input from the grassroots organizing community and other community groups on the characteristics they hope to see in the next chief;
- Seek input from community members through public forums that are accessible to communities across the entire city;
- Include community members and leaders in resume reviews and candidate interviews;
- Incorporate the relevant calls to action from the Ferguson Commission Report as part of the interview process;
- Seek to find a candidate who understands and is committed to implementing holistic community policing in the City of St. Louis.
When we agreed to become co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson, we understood that in this role it was our responsibility to hold the accountable bodies named in the Ferguson Commission Report accountable. We know it is our responsibility to ensure that the lessons and community trust held in that report are applied for the betterment of the region.
The hiring of a new police chief is a clear opportunity to apply the principles and insights from that report. We send this letter to challenge you to develop a process in the spirit of radical listening – a critical component of racial equity – that characterized the commission, and to offer you our support as you begin this search.
Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss how we might help.
Rebeccah Bennet and Zack Boyers are co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson.