Hoonah’s current police chief, a University of Michigan police sergeant, and a longtime Wisconsin police sergeant are finalists in the search for Haines’ next chief of police. Interim Borough Manager Brad Ryan chose the finalists, with input from the Public Safety Commission. Current Haines police officer Brayton Long, who applied for the police chief job, was not shortlisted at a Tuesday public safety commission meeting.
Manager Ryan chose the three men from a pool of 10 who were interviewed and presented by Richard Fursman. The borough assembly hired Fursman to conduct the search for police chief and borough manager.
“I always thought of this like a major organ transplant, like a heart transplant, where if you don’t have the right match, you’re gonna get rejection,” Fursman said.
There was a mix of reactions from public safety commission members. Jim Stanford said he favored candidates who have small-town experience.
“The person that needs to be in this position, needs to be able to operate in the fishbowl, probably without a huge support structure, just a few officers,” Stanford said.
Bob Duis said he was disappointed, and was hoping to see more community policing experience. Current interim police chief Josh Dryden, who did not apply for the job, echoed Duis’ concern.
“I think on a lot of these, they don’t qualify because they don’t have the small town, they don’t have the real on-the-ground police work,” Dryden said. “I feel that I might have to go and retrain the majority of these people to go and do calls with me. And we don’t have the time.”
The commission quickly agreed on four candidates to recommend to the manager. They were Hoonah Police Chief William ‘Dave’ Mckillican, Wisconsin sergeant Timothy O’Neill, former Washington police chief Gerald ‘Ed’ Casey, and former Massachusetts police chief Christian Pedoty. Manager Ryan agreed with the first two, Mckillican and O’Neill, but not the last two. Instead, he chose University of Michigan police sergeant Christian Carelli as the third finalist.
“[Carelli’s] consistency and long-term work at the University of Michigan and the way he wrote his answers just impressed me,” Ryan explained. “It’s a little bit of a diversity choice as well, just a little bit different background than normal.”
Ryan says Casey and Pedoty didn’t score highly with him because of some ‘questionable background issues’ and apparent distance from on-the-ground police work.
Let’s talk a little more about the three finalists. Carelli has worked in the University of Michigan Police Department since 2000, working his way from officer to sergeant. Most recently, he was put in charge of the detective bureau of the department. Carelli didn’t seem to stand out to any of the public safety commission members.
O’Neill is a police sergeant in the 50,000-person city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. He has spent his entire police career in Wisconsin and has been at the La Crosse department since 2005. He says in his application that he is interested in Haines because he and his wife want to live in a small town.
“The intangible is he hasn’t been tested at that level yet,” said Fursman. “So this would be a step up for him. To go from a small fish in a big pond to a very big fish in a small pond.”
Mckillican is the only Alaskan finalist. He has been chief of police in Hoonah since late 2014. Before that, he served since 2005 at Ft. Wainwright, working in various roles, including as a training officer. He has also been a police officer in Fairbanks.
The three finalists will be invited to Haines May 13 and 14 for in-person interviews and a community meet-and-greet.