The Mesa Police Department’s next leader will be an outsider. The pool of semifinalists for the position of chief has been pared in half, to Phoenix assistant chief John L. Buchanan and Los Angeles assistant chief George Gascón, Mesa officials announced Monday.
Among the two not named finalists is Mesa interim chief Gregory T. Fowler. He has been running the department since Dennis Donna stepped down in December.
The other semifinalist was Omaha, Neb., deputy chief Eric W. Buske.
This will be the first time in almost two decades a new chief does not come from within the department; Guy Meeks was hired from Memphis, Tenn., in 1989.
However, City Manager Chris Brady said the decision to go outside is in no way an indictment of the agency’s quality.
“I think we have a great police department. I think we have some great people,” said Brady, himself an outsider as he was hired from San Antonio.
Fowler wasn’t bitter about being passed over.
“The manager, he’s got a tough decision to make,” Fowler said. “He’s got to make the decision that fits the community the best, and I certainly respect that.”
Brady will interview the two finalists some time in the next two weeks. Then, he will choose one, and the City Council will ratify the selection at a June meeting.
“They impress me as two gentlemen who have really strong police service experience, working their way up through different sections or areas within the police department,” Brady said. “And, they came across as people who are leaders, who are willing to go in and make big impacts on their departments.”
The finalists reacted to the news with humility.
“I’m very pleased and, quite frankly, very, very honored to be at this place in the process,” Gascón said.
Said Buchanan: “It was a very nice call to get. I’m excited and humbled.”
The past days have been quite eventful for Gascón.
He interviewed before a panel of city and civic leaders on April 28, and three days later was responsible for keeping the streets of Los Angeles safe during two immigration rights marches that drew about 700,000 people; the demonstrations went off without incident.
Although Mesa officials were sure to be watching, Gascón said he didn’t feel any pressure beyond his duties to the LAPD and the people it protects.
“So long as I’m being paid by the city of L.A., I’m giving the city of L.A. 110 percent of my time,” Gascón said.