Now the process has narrowed to six finalists. Cooke is looking for a candidate that is able to lead a complex organization like the Fort Worth police department.
Cooke said the process began with 25 candidates. Each candidate went through video interviews and background checks.
“We think about what that means relative to policing in 2015 in the United States. You’ve got body cameras, you talk about community policing, you talk about response time. It’s a tough job – one that’s really 24/7, every day of the year,” he said.
Cooke also said he wants to hire a candidate that is engaged in the diverse community of Fort Worth.
He noted that it’s important that the applicant pool accurately reflects the diversity of the community.
However, Cooke said diversity isn’t going to be the determining factor.
“At the end, I’m going to choose the person who I think is going to be the best police chief for Fort Worth – regardless of race or sex,” he said. “You want a leader that can connect with all the different facets of the community.”
Cooke said the challenges for the incoming chief depend on whether he or she is an internal or external candidate. Internal candidates are already familiar with the organization, so their biggest challenge is making a smooth transition from assistant chief to chief. External candidates have to adapt to the organization and the community.
Cooke is still adapting to the community himself. He has served as city manager for about 15 months. He said that hiring a new police chief at such an early point in his service is placing him in a unique situation.
“One of the reasons I want to make this as public of a process as we have so far, is because I’m still learning about the community too,” he said.
A public forum was held on September 10, where candidates answered community-sourced questions as a way to connect with the public.
Cooke called the forum a “beginning point,” and has yet to announce a timeline for his final decision.