Local News

Interim Durham Police Chief Being Considered For Full-Time Job

Posted November 21, 2002

— Durham city officials announced Thursday that interim police chief Steve Chalmers is being considered for the full-time position after Doug Scott declined the city's offer.

Durham officials say Chalmers is the only candidate being considered and that he will have to undergo an extensive background check.

Chalmers was one of three finalists for the position during the original search for a permanent successor to Teresa Chambers, who resigned last February to become head of the National Park Service. But he was eliminated from contention after allegations of assault from Chalmers' ex-wife, although Chalmers was never convicted of assault in that incident.

Gregory Watkins of the Kansas City Police Department originally was chosen by Conner to be chief, and he accepted the job not long after Chalmers was eliminated. But Watkins resigned about two weeks before he was scheduled to start after allegations of domestic violence in his past were revealed.

Watkins' resignation caused Conner to start all over again in her search for a chief, so a second search began. Before that search got started, Conner again said that Chalmers was not a candidate for the job, though he remained as interim chief.

Now, about a month after Conner held a press conference to say Scott would be the next chief, Scott has decided he doesn't want the job after a snag in his contract talks regarding health insurance benefits.

That brings Conner back to Chalmers, who said Thursday that he is glad to be back in the running, despite being passed over twice, and does not anticipate any problems.

"I certainly feel that I've demonstrated that I've been committed to this city and this department," Chalmers said.

In a phone interview Thursday with WRAL, Scott said he was not inclined to take the current offer and found the process too frustrating.

Scott wanted a guarantee from the City that he and his family would get health benefits for life. In a letter to Conner, Scott wrote: "I have found the past month to be extremely frustrating. I believe it would be a reflection of what is yet to come if I accepted the chief's position."

Conner said the city met some of Scott's demands, raising his moving expenses and the percentage of his financial benefits package.

"The city made every effort to meet the needs of Doug Scott," she said.

Conner said there's no timetable yet for naming a chief and that the background check could take from five to 10 days. She said the check is similar to the one Scott went through before he was picked for the job.

Chalmers said he received a phone call Wednesday night from Conner, who asked him if he was still interested in being Durham's top cop.

"I have always been interested in the position," Chalmers said. "I am still interested in being the chief of police here in Durham."

Residents said the ongoing situation is just like a soap opera.

"It's another saga of 'As Durham Turns,'" resident Charles Clinton said. "Join us tonight at 6 for this ongoing chapter in this episode. What will happen in Durham next?"

Thursday morning, Durham Police Department officials said the office was inundated with calls of support for Chalmers.

"This is ending," Conner said. "I know how important it is to end, but I also ask the community to be patient because it's an important decision in terms of the police chief."

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