With 8 candidates selected for interviews, St. Paul police chief expected to be named by late October

A committee of community members has selected eight candidates to interview for St. Paul’s police chief job, and they worked Thursday to decide what questions to ask them.

Six candidates come from within the St. Paul Police Department’s ranks and two are external.

Todd Axtell retired as the city’s police chief on June 1 and Jeremy Ellison, most recently a St. Paul police deputy chief, has been serving as interim chief since. He didn’t apply for the permanent job.

Approximately 40 people applied to be St. Paul’s police chief, of which 18 met the minimum qualifications, said Toni Newborn, the city’s human resources director and chief equity officer.

Under city charter, the St. Paul City Council appoints an examining committee, which is in charge of forwarding five finalists to the mayor.

The 38-member committee selected nine candidates to interview, but one has accepted a job elsewhere, Newborn told the committee Thursday. And with Minneapolis and other places also hiring police chiefs, Newborn said they don’t want to lose additional candidates.

Of the remaining eight candidates, four are women and two are people of color, Newborn said.

St. Paul has a contract with a search firm, which will conduct interviews with the eight candidates. They’ll all be asked the same questions, chosen by the selection committee. The interviews will each be one hour and videotaped, and committee members will be asked to watch them in their entirety before they meet next on Oct. 3.

The committee is then expected to select five finalists, at which point their names will become public.

Committee members previously decided they’re looking for a chief with strong community engagement and visibility, who understands the culture of the police department and insists that officers undergo continuous education and training, and who has a vision for public safety, among other qualities they listed.

Clockwise from top left: St. Paul Police Senior Cmdr. Joshua Lego, Deputy Chief Julie Maidment, Cmdr. Axel Henry, Assistant Chief Stacy Murphy, Cmdr. Pamela Barragan, Senior Cmdr. Kurt Hallstrom. (Courtesy photos)

St. Paul’s police chiefs have traditionally risen through the department’s ranks. Six longtime St. Paul police employees previously confirmed to the Pioneer Press that they had applied to be chief: Cmdr. Pamela Barragan, Senior Cmdr. Kurt Hallstrom, Cmdr. Axel Henry, Senior Cmdr. Joshua Lego, Deputy Chief Julie Maidment and Assistant Chief Stacy Murphy.

There will be public forums with the finalists in October; the dates are being determined and will be announced. Mayor Melvin Carter will interview the finalists and make his choice of whom he’ll appoint to a six-year term.

“Our plan is to have everything wrapped up by the end of October,” Newborn said.

The process has been labor intensive, said Sasha Cotton, co-chair of the selection committee, after more than 20 members met for two hours Thursday to decide what interview questions to ask the candidates.

“It’s a large committee, with lots of diverse voices trying to represent the diversity of St. Paul,” Cotton said. “It’s taken a little longer than I think was initially planned, but I think that’s good to make sure we get this right because we know that choosing the next chief is such an important decision.”

In July, Carter extended the police chief application deadline by two weeks to Aug. 5 to encourage additional submissions.

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