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VOL. 9 | NO. 31 | Saturday, July 30, 2016

Court Rules Police Director Applicants List Must Be Made Public

By Bill Dries

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The city of Memphis and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have been ordered to make public the names of everyone who applied this summer for the job of Memphis Police director.

Chancellor Walter Evans ruled Friday, July 29, in the lawsuit filed by The Commercial Appeal against the city of Memphis and the IACP. The IACP fielded the applications for the city and then sent a list of six finalists it recommended to Mayor Jim Strickland.

Evans’ findings and order are immediate unless the city and/or the IACP file a timely appeal.

City Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen said the city intends to appeal the ruling.

"The city is committed to casting a wide net for its police chief search, and will resist any efforts to hamper that process," McMullen said in a written statement.

Strickland is currently interviewing all six finalists for the position and intends to name a police director, subject to Memphis City Council approval, in August.

Strickland has said the city’s $40,000 contract with the association for the search specified that the city would not get a list of everyone who had applied, only a list of finalists.

McMullen referred to the list of those who applied as "proprietary information."

"The city feels that protecting its vendor's proprietary information is essential in that it helps secure a larger pool of vendors and thus more competitive services benefitting the city," he said.

Strickland had said disclosing the names of all who applied could have a chilling effect on getting the best candidates for the job because some applicants would not want their current employers to know they were looking for a new job.

McMullen elaborated on that in his response Friday saying "at least two candidates withdrew their names from this process because of this lawsuit, thus shrinking the pool for consideration."

The response did not say how the city knew two applicants had withdrawn if the city did not get a list of everyone who submitted an application.

Evans considered the general argument and ultimately rejected it.

“While some candidate may experience problems with their current employer as a result of their names being made public, candidates assumed that risk by applying for the job,” Evans wrote. “If a candidate has been chosen as one of the top six, or even ultimately as the police director, his/her name knowingly would have been made public. As a result, this argument involving secrecy is not persuasive.”

Evans also found that the IACP “performed a critical function typically performed by government” and was paid with public funds.

“Although the city does not regulate and control IACP overall business activities, with regard to the search for a police director, the city provided IACP with the job requirements and delegated important decision-making authority to IACP over the process," he added.

Evans wrote that his determination of functional equivalency found that “not all factors weigh in favor of functional equivalency.”

“But the court finds that overall the factors weigh in favor of finding IACP the functional equivalent of the city with regard to the search for a police director,” he said.

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