The city of Topeka has narrowed down the candidates for police chief to three men.
The finalists are Bill Cochran, D. Samuel Dotson and Dominic Rizzi Jr., city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield announced Tuesday.
The incoming police chief will face serious challenges. Last year, Topeka had a record number of homicides. Nine of the 29 cases remain open. He will also have to deal with deteriorating community relations in the aftermath of the police shooting of Dominique White, which provoked protests and criticism of the department.
Cochran was named TPD’s interim chief in November. He has been with TPD since 1987, working as a homicide detective and a bureau commander. He also served 20 years as an officer in the Kansas Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq from January 2004 to February 2005.
Cochran received his bachelor’s in criminal justice from Washburn University in 1987 and a master’s of business administration from Friends University in 2010. Cochran is also a graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety Police Staff and Command School.
Dotson was the police chief for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from December 2012 to April 2017. He has been with the St. Louis Police Department since 1993 and worked in various roles including chief of staff for the Board of Police Commissioners, commander of the Seventh Police District and detective in the intelligence unit. He was also the director of operations in the St. Louis mayor’s office from May 2011 to December 2012, Hadfield said.
Dotson received a bachelor’s in business from Webster University in 1994 and his master’s in business administration from Fontbonne University in 2011. He is a graduate of the FBI National Executive Institute for Police and Boston University’s Senior Management Institute for Police.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dotson retired from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in April when the new mayor took office. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson described the relationship between police and the community as “frayed.” The Ethical Society of Police, which represents black officers, criticized Dotson in November 2015, raising issue with community relations following Ferguson as well as the number of minorities who were promoted. Dotson said the complaints were unfounded, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Rizzi has been the police chief in Yakima, Wash., since 2012. Before that, he served in the Chicago Police Department for 26 years in positions including patrol officer, homicide detective, commanding officer of the Law Enforcement Operations unit and executive assistant to the first deputy superintendent. He was also a military police officer in the Army, Hadfield said.
Rizzi received his bachelor’s in criminal social justice from Lewis University in 2002 and a master’s in public safety administration from Calumet College of St. Joseph, Ind., in 2011. Rizzi is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Senior Management Institute for Police.
On Tuesday, the Yakima City Council was scheduled to vote on a $500,000 settlement arising from a 2014 police shooting, The Yakima-Herald reported. The city experienced three police shootings in December, resulting in two deaths and one injury, according to The Yakima-Herald.
In 2014, Rizzi and the Yakima department were sued by the police union, which unsuccessfully tried to prevent the release of officer discipline records, The Spokesman-Review reported.
The new chief is expected to be named by Topeka city manager Brent Trout the week of Jan. 12.
Trout asked for public input in hiring a police chief last month. Feedback included comments about police accountability, transparency and diversity. The three finalists are white men. Following the Dominique White shooting, community organizers called for the city to hire a police chief that was a minority.
One of those organizers, Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, who is also a local Unitarian Universalist pastor, said she was disappointed that none of the final candidates were a person of color. Oglesby-Dunegan said she hopes the finalists fit some of the other criteria such as being community oriented.
Interviews will start Thursday.
The public has the opportunity to meet the finalists from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday. The meet-and-greet will take place at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th.
The entry salary for police chief is listed as $135,000, Hadfield said.