Local News

Interim Police Chief Still Wants To Be Durham's Top Cop

Posted November 22, 2002

— Despite being passed over twice for the full-time position, interim Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers considers himself lucky. He is back in the running for the job after Doug Scott, an assistant inspector general with the U.S. Department of the Interior, declined the city's offer to take the position.

It is the second time where a candidate has planned to accept the position, but later turned it down. Gregory Watkins, of the Kansas City Police Department, originally was chosen to be chief, but he resigned about two weeks before he was scheduled to start after allegations of domestic violence in his past were revealed.

After all that has happened, Chalmers' interest in taking the helm remains strong.

"If it happens, I'd be very happy. It would be a dream come true," he said. "I love the community. It's my home. My family is here and it's where I plan to retire.

"It's a career I've been dedicated to," Chalmers said.

City Manager Marcia Conner announced Thursday that Chalmers is now the one and only candidate for the position. Just a few months ago, she made it clear he was not the man for the job.

"I firmly believe the city of Durham needs new energy and leadership," she said in an earlier press conference.

After deciding not to become Durham's next police chief, Scott said he found dealing with the city extremely frustrating and blamed a breakdown in negotiations on Conner's office.

However, Durham Councilor John Best, one of Conner's harshest critics and the only city council member who voted against keeping her as city manager, said she should not shoulder the blame for the latest situation. Best claimed Scott started playing hardball.

"Originally, it was two weeks vacation, then he wanted four weeks. Originally, he wanted $9,000 in moving expenses, then $12,000," Best said. "It seemed like we kept meeting his needs, then he'd move the bar up."

Chalmers admits there has been tension throughout the search for a new police chief, but he said he and Conner still have a good working relationship.

"Certainly, there's no malice and animosity on my part and I don't think there is on her part either," he said.

Chalmers said he is not banking on anything, and he knows his full-time hiring is not a done deal.

"It's past the time of hoping and wishing and dreaming. I've done what I could do and we'll just see how it works out," he said.

Chalmers said he has been working with the Police Department for nearly 28 years and is eligible to retire in a year and a half. But he said if he is named permanent chief, he will stay on for at least three or four more years.


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