Portland Police Chief James Craig met with Cincinnati’s city manager Friday for a three-hour interview as part of that city’s effort to hire a new police chief.

Craig, who has been Portland’s chief for two years, is one of four finalists for the job in Cincinnati. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. plans to make a decision by mid- to late July, said his spokesman.

Craig’s interview — part of his second visit to the city — was followed by a tour of the city.

“It’s definitely a Midwest feel. It struck me like I was in Detroit a few times,” said Craig, referring to the city where he grew up and started his police career.

Cincinnati is in southern Ohio, separated from Kentucky by the Ohio River.

Craig said he felt that his interview went well but there are four extremely qualified candidates for the job. All had, or were scheduled to have, the same extended interview, he said.

Leading the police force in a major city like Cincinnati would carry more responsibility, and more rewards.

The city, with a population of 297,000, has 1,057 officers and last year had 72 homicides.

By comparison, Portland has 66,000 people and 160 officers, and had five homicides last year, up from four in 2009.

The job in Cincinnati pays $101,000 to $138,000 a year, compared with the $93,000 Craig earns in Portland. He earned $170,000 as a captain in the Los Angeles Police Department. Craig retired from the force there and is able to supplement his current pay with retirement income.

Craig said he has grown fond of Portland and isn’t eager to leave but feels that, professionally, he shouldn’t pass up a chance to lead a major metropolitan department. Craig, 54, is one of two external candidates for the job. The other is a former assistant chief for the Washington, D.C., police department.

There also are two internal candidates, both assistant chiefs, one of whom is the son of a former chief.

Craig is the only finalist who has led a department as chief.

The only reason Craig can be considered for the job is because voters approved a change to Cincinnati’s charter in 2002 that allows the city manager to consider external candidates when hiring police and fire chiefs. The referendum followed a class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, which led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and improvement plan.

Former Portland City Manager Joe Gray, who hired Craig, said Friday that one of Craig’s strengths was the new ideas and fresh approaches he brought from outside the department.

In his 10 years as city manager, Gray hired chiefs both from inside the department and outside. Craig’s predecessor in Portland was Tim Burton, who came up through the ranks.

“There’s not any science to this. You gauge a sense of what the community believes it’s looking for at that moment in time and go with it,” Gray said.

Craig’s meeting Friday with Dohoney will likely be crucial in determining whether the two can work together, Gray said.

“One of the important elements with the department head is the chemistry between the city manager and the department head,” Gray said. “Over and above them having the right skills for the job, they also have to have the temperament to be able to work with you.”

In soliciting community input on the search last fall, Dohoney said Cincinnati’s next police chief must have unquestionable integrity.

“This person must also have the ability to communicate and interact fairly and impartially with members of our community — regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity or race,” Dohoney said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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