City manager announces citizen-led search committee for new police chief

Kierra Frazier, News Editor

DeKALB –  City Manager Bill Nicklas announced at Monday’s City Council meeting that a community search committee for a new DeKalb police chief has been established following months of discussion.

Conversations regarding a citizen-led committee to oversee the police department and to improve the hiring policies for officers started over the summer as calls for police reform intensified. 

Interim Police Chief Bob Redel took the position in June after former Interim Police Chief John Petragallo retired after 26 years of service.

Nicklas said the search for a new police chief began earlier this year but was suspended due to COVID-19, and was later suspended indefinitely to hear what the community wanted.

The search committee includes DeKalb resident Earnell Brown, John Walker, a commissioner of the Human Relations Commission, Lisa King, a commissioner of the HRC and interim co-director of the CHANCE Program, Glenn Roby, a member of the Annie Glidden North Task Force, Monique Bernoudy, assistant vice president for the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Will Heinisch, president of DeKalb Area Rental Association, Mike Pittsley,  a member of the Annie Glidden North Task Force and Don Thomas, retired Sycamore police chief.

Brown, who is also a local organizer for the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said he joined the committee because he wants to be an advocate for the community near Annie Glidden North, where residents are the most impacted by police activities and decisions.

“Everyone in that neighborhood isn’t involved in criminal behaviors and are just as frustrated with it as everyone else,” Brown said. “I want to bring a voice that is often never involved in this type of process, and that is the voice of a change agent for those attempting to change their criminal thinking patterns and behaviors.” 

Nicklas said the committee had its first meeting last Saturday to discuss applications for the position, which will be available starting Wednesday. 

“You’ll see a theme here,” Nicklas said. “Housing and equity, big topics for our community right now.”

Once applications are received for the position, the community search committee, along with a law enforcement committee and employee committee, will conduct interviews for the position. 

“After a lot of community discussion about both institutionally how we provide certain types of services and also how do we reach out and listen and connect people that we are intended to serve over the last six months, a lot has been done,” Nicklas said. 

The committee will make a recommendation on the new police chief to the city manager and the city manager will then make a recommendation to the City Council. The new police chief is planned to be announced in late February.

King said she joined the committee because she’s always liked being involved in the community even though she grew up in Chicago and not DeKalb. 

“As a member of the community, participating and contributing is a role or responsibility that everyone has in some manner,” King said. “I am just fortunate enough to sit at the table with other members of this community who also want to do their part.”