Cincinnati identifies 4 finalists for police chief job

In-person interviews with Dohoney upcoming

CINCINNATI – The city narrowed its list to four police chief candidates Thursday, with only one of three internal applicants making the cut.

The internal candidate, Interim Police Chief Paul Humphries, completed his in-person interview with the screening committee this week.

"I think I’ve had a very good career here and been successful in my assignments, but to have cops come up to me and say they’ll work their butts off for me, that’s what makes me go forward every day," Humphries said Thursday following the announcement.

The external candidates are:

• Jeffrey Blackwell, Deputy Chief –  Columbus, Ohio Police Department
• Michael Dvorak, Deputy Chief – Mesa, Arizona Police Department
• Jerry Speziale, Deputy Superintendent – NY/NJ Port Authority Police

As WCPO first reported last week, interviews with City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., who will make the final hiring decision, are scheduled for next week.

The other two internal candidates, Lt. Col. Dave Bailey and District 1 Capt. Gary Lee, did not make the cut.

Thursday’s announcement marks one of the few times the city has publicly disclosed information about the search for a new chief of police since the departure of former Chief James Craig in May.

"Our relationship with (Paul) Humphries is healthy," said Fraternal Order of Police President Spc. Kathy Harrell. "We've worked closely over the years, especially under Chief (James) Craig, and I expect that relationship to continue."

More On The Candidates

Columbus Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell is a 22-year police veteran and has served in patrol, traffic and cold case homicide divisions before he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1994. He was nominated for the Mayor’s Award of Excellence in 2005 for his work as chairman of the photo red light committee. “Red-light” cameras are at 20 intersections throughout Columbus. He's served as deputy chief since 2009, currently overseeing the communication, technical services and support operations bureaus, according to his resume. He also possesses extensive training in emergency preparedness.

Jerry Speziale is currently the deputy police superintendent for the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, a position he has held since 2010. He helps manage more than 1,700 sworn personnel, representing the 25th largest police agency in the country, according to his resume. He also helps manage a $406 million budget. He was formerly the Passaic County Sheriff in New Jersey for eight years. He earned a master’s degree in administrative science from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Michael Dvorak is currently the deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., police department, a position he has held since May 2011. He oversees forensic services and homeland defense as well as the department's $146 million budget, according to his resume. In 2008, he assisted in the design and implementation of reducing the police budget by $19 million. He earned a bachelor's degree in justice studies from Arizona State University and a master's degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2002.

Humphries is a 26-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department with experience as a hostage negotiator, commander of the professional standards section (internal affairs), training and the vice unit. Humphries, a 1984 Xavier University graduate, has been with the police department since March 1986, serving in three of the city’s five districts.

Humphries, 51, helped administer an audit of the department when Craig first arrived and is credited with helping the department transform its top-down culture.

Next Steps

The 11-member selection committee, which includes a cross-section of people, was formed in late June to help Dohoney select a viable candidate for the job. A total of 34 candidates applied. Three candidates have been rejected for not meeting the minimum requirements and one withdrew his name from consideration.

On Wednesday, former Cincinnati Assistant Chief Vince Demasi withdrew his name from consideration. Demasi, who has served as police chief in West Palm Beach, Fla. since June 2012, had said his "dream job" was to lead the Cincinnati Police Department. It was unclear why he withdrew.

Cincinnati officials have said they wanted a new chief in place by the end of the summer, although city spokeswoman Meg Olberding has said the city wanted to narrow the field to a few viable candidates by mid-September.

Dohoney has consistently declined to comment on the police chief process.

“I am appreciative to the screening committee for their time, dedication and the seriousness to which they approached the selection process in order to recommend this group of excellent candidates for our next Chief of Police,” Dohoney said in a prepared statement Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what the next steps will be in the process.

"I’m obviously very proud to be in the final four, and I'm very confident in the city manager to select the best candidate," Humphries said.

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