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Search For Durham Police Chief Back To Square One

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DURHAM, N.C. — The search for a new Durham Police Chief is back to square one. Durham City Manager Marcia Conner announced Thursday that she is reopening the search for the city's new police chief.

Interim police chief Steve Chalmers, a 28-year veteran of the Durham Police Department, said during the press conference Thursday that he will not apply for the position. He said he still believed he was the best person for the job.

Conner said she met with Chalmers Thursday morning and said it came down to her decision. Conner said she thought the city needed new leadership, change and direction and she thought she was the person to bring that to the Durham Police Department.

"Clearly, it was part of my evaluation for the selection and hiring of individuals. I'm sure through the evaluation process next year, it's a black eye, but hopefully the next 12 months, I'm going to focus on other things in terms of my performance and what I can do for the city of Durham," Conner said. "Hopefully, this will be a blip on the radar screen and we can move forward."

Conner said the new search will start immediately and she hopes it will take four to six weeks. Conner said she plans to ask for help from the State Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation or a private detective firm to conduct background searches on potential candidates.

Previously, the city spent $25,000 to enlist the help of an outside firm to look at possible candidates for the job.

Conner's first choice, Gregory Watkins, resigned last week before taking office because of domestic violence charges in his past.

Another possible candidate, William Carcara of Jefferson County, Kentucky withdrew his name last weekend.

City council members say they are frustrated with the delays, but they do not want Conner to make a hasty decision.

"I think everyone in the community wants the right decision to be made. Just to rush into decision wouldn't be right. We want to know where we are and that the next step has some certainity to it," said Thomas Stith, a city council member.

"As senior member of the city council, I've never seen episodes like this before," Howard Clement said. "Whomever is chosen will be under a constant microscope."

Police officers told WRAL that morale has dropped over the past couple of months and they wanted to see a new chief selected soon.

The city has been without a police chief since January.