Interviews of 3 Police Chief Candidates Open to Public

By Carmen Duarte; Caitlin Schmidt | AZ Daily Star, October 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Interviews of 3 Police Chief Candidates Open to Public


Carmen Duarte; Caitlin Schmidt, AZ Daily Star


The three candidates vying for the Tucson police chief's job all are veteran law enforcement officers with lengthy careers in supervisory positions.

One has risen to a deputy chief's job in a large urban department (Dallas), while another had a long career in the highway patrol in Florida. The third is now chief in Richmond, California, a much smaller department than Tucson's.

All three will give their reasons why they want to be Tucson's top cop and their priorities for the department when they submit to public interviews Thursday, Oct. 29, at City Hall. Once the interviews are over, the panel conducting the chief's search will make its recommendation on who it wants for the job.

The city's Police Chief Appointment Advisory Committee will meet beginning at 8 a.m. in the City Council's chambers in City Hall at 255 W. Alameda St. Each candidate will be interviewed for about 90 minutes.

A fourth candidate, the retiring police chief in San Jose, California, notified city officials Tuesday that he is withdrawing his name for consideration.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor is set to retire in December. He has served with the police department for 35 years.

In addition to the public meeting, separate interviews will be held with the Tucson Police Officers' Association, Tucson Police Department command staff and the city's executive leadership team.

City Manager Michael Ortega will receive input from the groups, and he is expected to appoint the new police chief in November. Pending approval by the mayor and City Council, the new chief would start working Jan. 1.

Here are the finalists:

Malik Aziz

Aziz, 47, is a deputy chief in the Dallas Police Department and a 24-year veteran of the department, where he's held a variety of ranks. He's served as deputy chief since 2008.

He has a bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a MBA from the University of Dallas.

Charlie Cato, first assistant chief of police in Dallas, has known Aziz his whole career, saying they started out as young officers together.

"He's been conscientious in every position he's had," Cato said. "I've always been impressed with his ability to build bridges with folks who are different."

Both men grew up in Dallas and had hard upbringings in what at the time was a financially depressed city, Cato said.

"He's always reaching back and helping provide opportunities for those in the next generation," Cato said, mentioning that Aziz helped to establish a scholarship fund for high school students to help continue their education.

In May, Aziz was selected by Police Chief David Brown to reform and restart the department's early intervention program, which aims to help officers who have received frequent complaints by the public, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The focus of the program is to intervene in the early stages of a problem, rather than wait until the officer is on a downward spiral.

When he took it over, Aziz found the program was lacking an educational component, and now when officers come under review, the board can recommend a variety of resolutions, including training and counseling, Cato said.

"The program used to be disciplinary, but now it's about helping these officers to develop themselves," he said. "It's hard to see someone of his caliber leave the department."

Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle was no stranger to the department when he signed on as chief in 2004, but after more than 20 years away, he came in as an outsider. Aziz was a sergeant at the time.

"Malik always had a gift of getting officers to work hard, be accountable, be well thought of within the community and get results," Kunkle said. "That's very hard to do and not favor one side."

Described by Kunkle as a big personality, Aziz's job as a patrol commander involved working closely with the community and elected officials, which Kunkle said he handled adeptly. …

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