Rincon City Council is on the verge of hiring its next police chief and could do so soon.
Council members have interviewed three candidates for the position and received 31 applications from across the U.S., Mayor Ken Lee said.
“I’d say we’re close,” he said.
City council members revealed their first part of an investigation conducted by Mayor Lee and city attorney Raymond Dickey into the police department. That probe was triggered by the suspension of then-Chief Michael Berry, who was later fired.
“All of the potential candidates were made fully aware of the issues,” Council member Ken Baxley said.
The police department also is up to almost full staff, council members said. Without a chief in place to do the hiring, two council members acted as an interview committee and forwarded their recommendations to the rest of the council.
“We believe we have a core group of officers that are good and want to be here,” Council member Paul Wendelken said.
Wendelken added that all the officers that have been hired since Berry and Detective Scott Collins were fired in September were certified in the state. Collins also was certified in the state before joining the Rincon Police Department.
Berry, who came to Rincon from the Newport News (Va.) Police Department, had to attend certification classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University after his hiring, which council members said they knew would have to happen when he was hired.
Council members also say they hope the process has shown the chief candidates and the officers where the lines of communication are. Council members repeatedly stated that the city charter shows that the chief is answerable to the mayor and council.
“Our goal is that the chief and officers will have allegiance to the city, not to a position or a person,” Wendelken said.
That council members are doing the interviews is in itself unique, Lee admitted — Rincon has been without a city manager since Donald Toms departed on Jan. 9.
“Normally, the city manager would be highly involved in hiring a police chief,” Lee said. “So this process will be a little different that it has been in the past.”
The city also kicked around the notion of hiring an outside search firm but opted to handle the matter internally.
“We’ve got seven very qualified people who do this in their daily business,” said Lee, who is also the manager of the Rincon Kroger. “It’s not like we have a bunch of amateurs up here who haven’t interviewed people.”
The three finalists are former Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mike Bohannon, Bud Pierce with the Thunderbolt Police Department and Bill Charles, a lieutenant with the Atlanta Police Department.