Even though final interviews for the police chief are being conducted Thursday, a final decision is not imminent, the interim city manager said Wednesday following a meet and greet where the community got to meet the four finalists.
“I certainly don’t anticipate making a decision in the next day,” said Interim City Manager Cary Westin. “I’m going to take the time I need to make the best decision that I possibly can for this community.”
Westin said Wednesday’s meet-and-greet event allowed him to see how the finalists interact with the public which will be part of the hiring evaluation process and the final decision.
Despite pushpack from the some in the community for limited opportunities to interact with the finalists, the meet and greet was the sole chance the public had to talk with them before a decision is made on who will lead the department.
“We just felt that this would be a good process and a good venue to have the candidates available for them (the public) to be able to talk with the candidates,” Westin said. “It provided a time for people that chose to come Downtown to be able to do that and so we chose this route.”
The museum event drew about 100 participants, where each finalist had a station with their photo and bio on display so community members could walk up and talk with them at their own pace.
“It’s sort of a chaotic type of mess, but it was also sort of controlled,” retired El Paso police officer Marshall Brannon said of the event.
Brannon said he was happy with the finalists and that people had a chance to get answers to questions from them directly.
The Border Network for Human Rights had a protest in front of the museum during the event and drew about 50 participants demanding transparency in the hiring process.
“I think they are rushing the decision,” BNHR Executive Director Fernando Garcia said.
The new police chief will replace Greg Allen, who led the department for almost 15 years before he died in January. The chief also will oversee a department of more than 1,130 sworn officers and about 270 civilian personnel, as well as a $192 million annual budget.
The police chief’s salary may range from $121,500 to $239,000 a year, according to the job description.
What the finalists said about themselves
Before the finalists went to their designated stations to talk to people at the event, they were each given about two minutes to introduce themselves.
“I believe in leading a highly ethical organization where it’s a culture of self discipline, highly transparent with the public and very accountable because we serve the citizens,” said Steve Dye, who recently retired as the Grand Prairie city manager and previously served as that North Texas city’s police chief.
Dye, who has been in law enforcement for 35 years and four in city leadership roles, said returning to law enforcement would be returning to his passion. He said high levels of community policing supported by numerous programs is a pathway to build trust and legitimacy in the community.
He also said he wants to support the officers in the department, but acknowledge when mistakes are made and be transparent about them.
“We’re going to make those mistakes and then we’re going to tell the public the solutions on how to correct those errors,” Dye said.
Peter Pacillas, the current interim EPPD police chief, said he is a lifelong El Pasoan who graduated from Burges High School and has served with the El Paso police for 38 years. He rose through the ranks and was appointed assistant chief to Allen in 2009.
Pacillas said his primary goal as chief is to work on community relations and have open dialogues. He said the department also has to hold its police officers accountable.
“When we find out that there is somebody violating policy or procedures we do address it and if we have to do the unthinkable we will arrest our officers if they do violate the law,” Pacillas said. “They are not above the law – we will hold our officers accountable.”
David Ransom, who was born and raised in El Paso and graduated from Bel Air High School and the University of Texas at El Paso before becoming an EPPD officer, said he left El Paso in 2013 because his wife accepted a job in Boston.
Ransom currently teaches criminal justice courses at Bay State College in Boston and serves as chief of police at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
“She made a lot of sacrifices during my 21 years while I was with the police department, and I think it was my turn,” Ransom said.
Ransom kept his introduction short and did not discuss his goals as the potential chief, but said he would be honored to serve the public in the role.
“I take great pleasure in that and I think that my calling is to serve others,” he said.
Victor Zarur, current interim executive assistant chief of operations in EPPD’s Office of Performance and Development, was born and raised in El Paso and graduated from Bel Air High School.
“Engagement with the community is vital to our success,” Zarur said.
Zarur, who kept his comments short, said he rose through the ranks in the Police Department and saw the importance of talking with citizens as key to having good relationships.
“I found that the biggest thing as officers with the community is that day-to-day conversation to know that we’re serving you and meeting your needs,” he said.