By David Hammer, WWL4
August 1, 2023
The International Association of Chiefs of Police finished its review of six candidates, and gave the highest score to former Henderson, Nev., police chief Thedrick Andres.
But there are still major questions about how the IACP process was handled and how it scored the candidates, something that means more than ever because Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s pick must be confirmed by the City Council.
One committee of external stakeholders that interviewed the six IACP semifinalists chose Andres, former Oakland, Calif., chief Anne Kirkpatrick and current Interim NOPD Superintendent Michelle Woodfork as the three finalists. But that committee filed a short handwritten report that also questioned Woodfork’s lack of leadership experience and said she needed mentoring.
We asked Cantrell about that and her process now that she has the IACP scores and recommendations from the external committee and another comprised of her internal staff.
“So, what I’m going to say is that the next phase is an interview process that I will engage upon within the next couple of weeks. I’m letting, making sure that IACP is off to do more thorough evaluations of the candidates thus far,” Cantrell said.
She did not answer our question about the external committee’s criticism of Woodfork’s lack of leadership experience, but she did say, “I’m open minded literally to the candidates that have made it thus far, which includes Chief Woodfork.”
Cantrell said she’s still hoping to include a fourth candidate as a finalist – David Franklin, former chief of staff at the Albuquerque Police Department. But the IACP did not provide Franklin’s scores or that of another candidate who withdrew. The city paid the IACP $90,000 for its review of 33 candidates and the selection of six semifinalists, so Cantrell said she wants to see all six scores.
The City Council and others have blasted the process as too secretive. Previous mayors have had a much more secretive process for selecting a chief, but this time there’s a major difference: voters overwhelmingly gave the City Council the power to confirm or reject a mayor’s pick.
City Council President JP Morrell said the council and public didn’t get enough information to fully understand the IACP’s scores.
“The scores without context are kind of nonsense,” Morrell said. “When you look at the (IACP) report, this is not like the ACT or the SAT where there’s an objective criteria and you score on it.”
He said more details about the scoring should have been made available to the City Council.
“And I think both the IACP and the mayor have forgotten If the council does not confirm your pick, they are not hired,” he said.
Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the IACP scores also failed to take into account potential problems in the candidates’ backgrounds.
“And what we quickly found out is some of the semifinalists have background issues that weren’t disclosed,” he said. “So, the people that conducted those interviews and made recommendations weren’t privy to background information.”
For example, Andres shot a man to death in 2014 after getting into a fight on a party bus while off-duty. A grand jury refused to charge him.
More recently, police unions in Henderson voted 95% no-confidence in Andres. After he retired there, he failed to get the police chief position in Victoria, Texas, a small city of about 65,000 residents in southeast Texas.
Kirkpatrick and Woodfork also have background issues that could affect their selection.
Kirkpatrick was fired by the Oakland Police Commission but won a whistleblower lawsuit in which she claimed the commission fired her as retaliation for exposing commission members for seeking favors from her. She also came under fire for taking no disciplinary action against five Oakland officers who were later fired for the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man.
Over her 34-year career at NOPD, Woodfork faced domestic violence allegations from fellow officers she dated and was suspended three times for lying to internal NOPD investigators. More recently, she was accused of intimidating Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, a loud Cantrell critic, during a political dispute with one of Cantrell’s allies on the City Council, Jay Banks. An internal investigation cleared Woodfork and other ranking officers who showed up at Batiste’s house.
Goyeneche couldn’t believe the IACP selection process didn’t include any background checks or review of candidates’ disciplinary records.
“If the City Council had been involved in this from the beginning … I would think that it would have been suggested that the background (checks) be done so that there’s not going to be anything in their backgrounds that would otherwise exclude them from being a viable candidate,” Goyeneche said.