New Rockville City Manager Rob DiSpirito said he intends to seek input from the Rockville community about police in the city prior to a national search for candidates to fill the vacant police chief position.
DiSpirito said he intends to become familiar with the interests and needs of the city, including residents, police officers and city employees, so he can be informed on what needs the chief should be able to address.
“I need to take time, as any manager would,” DiSpirito said.
He said he’s been spending time talking with acting Chief Bob Rappoport to learn about the city police department’s needs. He also met with the police officers’ union. He has more people to meet with and talk to in preparing for the formal process to fill the position.
He said he believes the vacancy is not in serious need of being filled right away.
“I don’t think we’re in any sense of urgency to fill that position, so why not take that opportunity to get the best scenario we can?” he asked.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she supports the city manager in his approach to filling the position.
“The City is being very well served by acting Chief Bob Rappoport, so I can understand the city manager’s willingness and ability to allow the process to unfold.”
Just as taxpayers should expect city water to be safe to drink, DiSpirito said, they should be able to feel safe under the protection of the police department.
DiSpirito said he has no final plans on how he will seek input from community members and residents, but he plans to consult the mayor and council on some of his ideas.
In a past police chief hiring process, he sent short-answer surveys to every resident and many surveys were returned. Another possibility is hosting community dialogues or town halls on the subject. He would use resident feedback about the police department to determine what he wants in a prospective police chief.
“It’s more about what they are looking for in police, so I can determine what abilities, training and (characteristics to look for),” DiSpirito said.
The acting chief will be a candidate in the search, DiSpirito said.
“In my opinion, he’s earned the right to be heavily considered,” Dispirito said of Rappoport.
Newton said she supports the city manager’s decision to incorporate community conversation into his approach.
“Rockville has a long history of community engagement,” Newton said. “I think it is just following the Rockville way, which I see as a positive, to reach the community in a discussion.”