New job description for police chief allows more candidates to apply; Troup wants focus on law enforcement, crime reduction instead of budget

Troup and commissioners

Top row from left, Mayor Mike Troup and Barry Cheyne; bottom tow, Kerry Anders and Steve Meckes.

QUINCY — The qualifications for a candidate to be Quincy’s next chief of police now are much less stringent.

The job was posted earlier this month on the Illinois Police Chief Association website. However, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners — Barry Cheyne, Steve Meckes and Kerry Anders — voted Friday during a special meeting to alter the qualifications, per the wishes of Quincy Mayor Mike Troup, to allow more candidates to apply.

The original job announcement required candidates to have a minimum of 15 years of experience as a sworn law officer, with five years of supervisory experience and a minimum of two years of command level experience.

Only five current members of the Quincy Police Department meet that criteria:

  •     Adam Yates, deputy chief of administration services
  •     Shannon Pilkington, deputy chief of operations
  •     John Nevin, first shift lieutenant
  •     Chad Scott, second shift lieutenant
  •     Kathy Schisler, investigative section lieutenant

The revamped announcement now simply says a candidate with 15 years of experience as a sworn law enforcement officer “with progressively responsible police experience” is “preferred.”

The original announcement noted applicants must have an associate’s degree plus successful completion of an internationally recognized police command/executive level development program, such as the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Police Staff and Command, FBI National Academy or the Southern Police Institute Commander Course.

It also said it preferred candidates with a bachelor’s degree or completion of 124 credit hours from an accredited college or university.

The revamped announcement now simply states:

  •     Any combination of experience, education and training that would demonstrate the required knowledge and abilities is qualifying.
  •     An associate’s degree is required, but a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree is desired.
  •     A candidate must have or have the ability to obtain a valid state driver’s license.

Simply, a candidate now only must have an associate’s degree and the ability to get a state driver’s license to apply for the job.

“Tongue in cheek, if you can breathe, you can apply,” Cheyne said during the meeting.

When the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners searched earlier this year for a new chief of the fire department, the job description called for the following qualifications:

  •     Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal basic firefighter certification or equivalent;
  •     Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal advanced fire officer certification or equivalent;
  •     An associate’s degree in fire science or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college with major coursework in fire science, public or business administration or a related field or any other applicable qualifications as referenced in the Illinois state statute related to the hiring of a fire chief;
  •     A bachelor’s degree was strongly preferred, and a master’s degree was desirable.
  •     Four years of increasingly responsible experience at the rank of captain or above.

“The (job description for the fire chief) has very set statutory requirements to be a chief. You can’t deviate,” Cheyne said. “We advertised that as such. We were looking for a person with a high level of experience, management, expertise and leadership.

“When we wrote the (initial) police chief job announcement, we used the same strategy. Why would you want the (police) chief to be different? That was part of the feedback after the selection process. If you want a fire chief with a high level of experience, why wouldn’t you want a police chief with the same experience? So, we wrote it that way.

“Then the screams came from various places and reasons, so we changed it.”

“I find it interesting that this whole process has been driven to make the application process less restrictive as opposed to more restrictive,” Meckes said. “Makes me wonder: Is there a particular candidate who might have been excluded (had changes to the job description not been made)?”

Adam Gibson, a detective for the Quincy Police Department, spoke at the beginning of the meeting, asking the commissioners to make the job requirements less restrictive. He prefaced his statements by saying he had no interest in the job.

“I spoke with four retirees dating back the late ‘60s with a combined 100-plus years of service to our department,” Gibson said. “All of them, through several chief searches, indicated any member of the rank who felt they had the ability to lead our department could apply and go through the process. It makes no sense to limit the advancement availability.

“Shutting down opportunities within our department doesn’t seem rational. You’re not chasing away bad officers, but the potential is there to continue to chase away good ones. Perception is reality. Many officers have expressed anger and frustration that this process seems flawed from the very start. It has an air of partiality before it has even begun.”

Troup also attended the meeting. After a discussion with commissioners about information to be included or stricken from the job description, Troup was asked by Meckes what he wanted in a police chief.

The mayor first said he preferred someone who has worked in Illinois. He noted the criminal justice reform package signed into law in February 2021 that made the state among the first to eliminate the use of cash bail. The sweeping overhaul includes changes to almost every area of the justice system — from police accountability to pretrial detention to sentencing.

“We’re so unique, especially the last two years,” Troup said. “What’s happened from our policing standpoint, we’re not as worse as other states, but we’ve had some real cold shower effect to law enforcement in Illinois the past two years.”

Troup also said he wants candidates who have been at various levels of policing — as well as various communities.

“If your only experience has been as a patrol officer, no matter what community you’re in, that’s not as valuable as somebody who has moved up a few ranks,” he said. “I’d like somebody who probably has been in more than one police department. Having seen two or three different police departments would be somebody who has experiences and can take many good things if they’ve work in a couple different places. Sometimes you get a better manager or thinker than if they’ve only been trained and they know one system extremely well.”

“Would it help if they had budgeting responsibility and managed a budget (as part of) their leadership skills?” Meckes asked.

“I’ve worked with a variety of people who didn’t know how to explain their budget, but they could get the work done because they had somebody who could handle the budget mechanism,” Troup said. “I don’t think the budgeting experience is one of the top critical (items). I’d rather have somebody who been on an investigative unit or maybe detective training, something like that.

“The true police skills, what only a police officer can do, if whoever is selected as our next chief has those, they will have the respect of every sworn officer.”

“More of a focus on law enforcement and crime reduction as opposed to the financial administrative thing?” Meckes asked.

“Yeah, because we can get a civilian to help the chief worry about the budgets and pull that stuff together,” Troup said. “(A strong candidate also needs to know) what’s going on the state level, because our chief works with the (Adams County) state’s attorney’s office, the (Adams County) sheriff, the state police. Those things are more critical than how well can you put a budget together.”

The chief of police directs a department with 87 full-time employees, with 73 sworn officers authorized, and a $14 million budget.

Police Chief Rob Copley is retiring May 6 after 42 years with the department, with 18 as chief. His salary for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2021, was $113,982, according to documents posted on the city’s website. The job post lists the annual salary range as “$95,000 to $105,000, commensurate with skills and experience.”

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