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Henderson council candidates split on hiring next police chief internally

Candidates in Henderson’s Ward 1 special election were split in their views on Henderson’s current plan to hire the next police chief from within the department.

Henderson has had four police chiefs in the last 11 years, and every chief who served the city in that time left amidst controversy.

Former Chief Jutta Chambers retired in March 2012 after the city settled a claim of police brutality against the department in 2010. The City Council at the time asked Chambers to step down after being told about the nature of the incident.

Former Chief Patrick Moers and left the department while he was being investigated for sexual harassment in May 2017.

Former Chief LaTesha Watson was fired in April 2019 for her conflict with police unions, union members and not cooperating with an official investigator, according to a letter from the assistant city manager at the time. She later sued the city in 2020, alleging racial and gender discrimination among other allegations.

The most recent police chief, Thedrick Andres, retired at the end of February following a vote of “no confidence” from both Henderson police unions in November 2022.

As part of the process for selecting the next chief, the Henderson Police Department recently promoted four captains to deputy chief. City Manager Richard Derrick and Assistant City Manager Jim McIntosh will choose the department’s next chief from those four after an internal selection process, with input from the mayor and council.

When asked about what they’d recommend for the city to smooth out the problems Henderson has had with police leadership, candidates Melissa Woodbury, Alex Kleytman, Aaron Johnson and Jim Seebock praised the city for choosing to hire its next chief from within.

“I believe that in the city of Henderson, we do need to have a tradition of promoting from within to these top levels,” said Kleytman. “Because it’s good that they’re a part of the community … having somebody who’s homegrown is important.”

Candidates Ali Nilson and Tim Cox said hiring from within by itself isn’t the best solution for the department’s history of problems with the position.

Nilson said the city does not need to just look within the police department for its next candidate because to her it is more important that the background and qualifications of the next chief match Henderson’s specific needs regardless of where the new candidate comes from.

Cox said the city should look into why the previous police chiefs failed, identify what they’re trying to accomplish and develop tools to help select candidates that work best. He also suggested looking for a short-term solution for the position now that would help develop long-term solutions for the future.

Candidate Eddie Hamilton did not comment on promoting candidates already in the department, but said the city should hold the next chief to a high standard.

“If you pay people that much, you need performance from them,” Hamilton said. “The chief of police should be given a difficult task because he makes so much money, how (the police chief) handle(s) things is (the chief’s) problem, you gotta figure it out or we’ll find somebody else.”

Early voting for the Ward 1 race will run from Tuesday until Thursday, and Election Day will be April 3. In-person voting and mail ballot drop-off will be at Henderson City Hall.

Only Ward 1 residents will be able to vote in the election, after a charter amendment was approved in November.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCredicoII.

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