Government & Politics

Wichita hires national consulting firm for $58K to head police chief search

Standing Police background
Standing Police background

Wichita is hiring a California-based consulting firm to lead a national search for the city’s next police chief.

Former Chief Gordon Ramsay stepped down last week after six years as the head of the largest police department in Kansas. Deputy Chief Lemuel Moore, a 30-year veteran of the Wichita Police Department, is running the department until a replacement is hired.

The search is expected to take at least five months and will include public forums for finalists, City Manager Robert Layton said Tuesday.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to award an $58,000 contract to Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc., a national search firm that exclusively recruits police chiefs for cities. Under the contract, $10,000 is for optional expenses.

Public Sector Search & Consulting was chosen out of three finalists by a selection committee that included City Council members Becky Tuttle and Brandon Johnson, who is also chairman of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training.

“One of the reasons that this firm was selected was because of their extensive experience in police chief searches, especially for cities our size,” Layton said.

“Plus, they suggested a very robust community engagement process, both on the front end of the process when we will be determining what the profile is for the ideal candidate and also on the back end when the finalists are selected,” Layton said. “And the community will have the opportunity to visit with those candidates and ask questions.”

The search firm will use community forums, focus groups, surveys of police employees and a community survey to form a candidate profile.

“They were my top choice not only for their expertise in finding chiefs but their community engagement,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the things I really cared about and really liked about what we did last time, so I think this is a great opportunity for us with this company and they definitely outlined some robust community engagement.”

The headhunting firm has been involved in several high-profile police chief searches across the country. It was hired earlier this week for just under $95,000 to help find a “reform-minded” chief for the troubled Minneapolis police department, whose officers killed George Floyd during an arrest in 2020, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

It has also had a hand in selecting controversial police chiefs in San Francisco, Dallas and Kansas City, Missouri.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott — who was hired in 2017 after a search led by Public Sector Search & Consulting — is facing criticism for his department’s use of rape victims’ DNA profiles to link them as suspects in unrelated crimes.

The firm was recently hired a second time by the city of Dallas after its first chief — Renee Hall — resigned amid scrutiny of the department’s use of force against peaceful protesters during George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020. The second chief selected with help by Public Sector Search & Consulting is Chief Eddie Garcia.

In Kansas City, Chief Rick Smith is being forced out amid scrutiny of police killings of Black men — which doubled in Smith’s first three years compared with the previous chief — and rising homicide rates. The firm helped hire Smith in 2017.

Layton said the search firm will be of use to Wichita because it has extensive law enforcement contacts across the country.

“They have a pretty significant pool of potential candidates, and it’s about trying to get people who are not looking for a job to be interested in a position that’s open here in Wichita,” he said.

Gary Peterson, retired police chief and CEO of Public Sector Search & Consulting, said in a letter to the city that his firm has been involved in more than 50 searches for police executives.

“We know the rising stars and who is looking to make a change,” he wrote. “Every new search expands our vast network of police leaders.”

Peterson also highlighted his company’s track record at hiring diverse leaders.

“In more than 60% of our police chief searches, the hiring authority has selected a candidate from a traditionally underrepresented group,” the company’s proposal says.

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