Potential Southfield police chiefs state top goals in panel interview

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 19, 2019

 Detroit Police Department Deputy Chief Elvin Barren discusses his qualifications during a panel interview for the next Southfield police chief June 3 at Southfield City Hall.

Detroit Police Department Deputy Chief Elvin Barren discusses his qualifications during a panel interview for the next Southfield police chief June 3 at Southfield City Hall.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Acting Southfield Police Chief Brian Bassett fields a question.

Acting Southfield Police Chief Brian Bassett fields a question.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Donafay Collins speaks to the panel.

Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Donafay Collins speaks to the panel.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Charles Mahone speaks to the crowd.

Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Charles Mahone speaks to the crowd.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Four police chief candidates were recently interviewed before the public, and city officials hope to have a new chief by the end of August.

The Southfield City Council hosted the interviews for the top four candidates during a special City Council meeting June 3 at City Hall.

The finalists are Detroit Police Department Deputy Chief Elvin Barren, acting Southfield Police Chief Brian Bassett, Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Donafay Collins and Detroit Police Department Cmdr. Charles Mahone.

“This is different than we’ve handled other appointed hirings before,” City Administrator Fred Zorn said. “In the spirit of transparency, at the direction of council, last October we outlined a different process. I want to remind council, as well as the listening audience, this is — by city charter — an appointment by the city administrator.”

Zorn added that all four candidates had undergone and passed rigorous testing and completed an all-day interview with city staff.

The panel responsible for interviewing the candidates was made up of Downtown Development Authority Chairman James Ralph, Executive Director of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Rabbi Shragie Myers, Planning Commission Chair Donald Culpepper, former Southfield Human Resources Director Minister Valerie Crump, and retired educator Vanessa Burrell.

Each candidate was asked the same set of questions and was interviewed in front of the audience at a podium for about 30 minutes. The candidates waited in the council conference room adjacent to the chambers until their names were called.

The candidates were asked about their background and how they would handle certain high-stakes situations, such as a mass shooting, threats of violence and racial tension. They were also asked to speak on their top goals and what they would accomplish within their first 90 days as chief.

Barren said that if named chief, his top priority would be the youth of Southfield.

“Right now, it’s our youth. In Detroit I’m part of the Ceasefire Program. Under this Program I get intel on our youth being involved in gang and group activity that stretches out into our suburban communities,” Barren said. “I want to make sure we’re measuring that, that we’re in our schools and that we have officers assigned to our schools, but I want to take a deep look at what’s actually occurring. Do we have mentoring programs that have substance? What I mean by substance is that are they dealing with alcohol and drug use, driving, gang and group memberships, bullying?”

If chosen as chief, Bassett said his main priority would be to keep crime and crash rates down.

“The answer I’ll give is everything is 100 percent, No. 1 priority. With that being said, we have to look at different metrics. As I talked about before, some of the things that are very in tune are the successes we’ve had with our violent crimes in the city of Southfield — 85 (percent decrease) over 10 years — you won’t find another community that’s been (as) successful as we have,” Bassett said. “Property crime reduction every single year for the last decade, so I am focused on those things.”

Mahone said that within his first few months as chief, he’d like to perform a transition audit.

“I look at a transition audit as kind of like buying a house. You want to look behind each door and see in what’s in there. So I would sit down with, of course, the administrator of the city of Southfield and the two deputy chiefs that are in position right now and I want to find out, what are the outliers that are out there right now?” Mahone said. “For example, where is our highest liability? Is it traffic accidents? Do we have an officer out there that is causing a lot of citizen complaints? Is our personnel actually wearing their body cameras? Those are some of the internal things I would look for.”

Collins said he would like to make sure everyone, from staff to citizens, feels like they are being treated fairly within his first few months as chief.

“The first goal I would like to add is that all the citizens feel like they’re being treated fairly. … I don’t want any citizens to feel like you’re just being stopped for no reason,” Collins said. “I want to make sure officers are on patrol over the whole city and make sure they are in contact with all the citizens. I also want to make sure that everyone within the agency feels like they have the opportunity to move forward. I want to make sure if you’re in a minority that you have the opportunity to move up in the department. This is a very diverse community, and I want to make sure that the organization fits the same description of the city.”

The search for a new police chief follows former Chief Eric Hawkins’ departure from the department last summer to lead the Albany Police Department.

After Hawkins resigned, city officials announced the appointment of Deputy Chief Nick Loussia and Deputy Chief Brian Bassett as acting chiefs Sept. 7.

According to city officials, Loussia oversees the investigations division, and Bassett directs the patrol division.

Zorn said he is hoping to have a new chief on board by the end of August.

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