PORTLAND — Five candidates to be Portland’s next police chief are expected to go through in-person interviews next month and an assessment that includes role-playing and written exercises.

The city’s nationwide search drew more than 80 applicants for the top cop position. A search committee chose 11 for telephone interviews, then narrowed the field to six. One applicant has since withdrawn from the process.

“We can certainly say we have a very talented and experienced applicant pool,” said Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman and a member of the six-person search committee.

The city is looking for a replacement for James Craig, who resigned in August to become Cincinnati’s police chief. Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck has been serving as interim chief.

The police chief will oversee a department with a $13.4 million annual budget and 216 employees.

Each of the five candidates will be interviewed by two panels of community members on Jan. 13.

The next day will be devoted to assessments run by BadgeQuest, a public safety consulting firm based in West Yarmouth, Mass. One at a time, the candidates will go through simulations of scenarios that police chiefs face, such as budgeting, labor relations and public safety issues, said Mike Miles, the city’s human resources director.

While one candidate goes through the simulations, the others will work on written exercises.

“You’re looking at real-life situations, and you’re looking at really well-thought-out ways of assessing people’s competencies,” Miles said.

City Manager Mark Rees used such assessments when he was town manager in North Andover, Mass. This is the first time Portland has done them, said Clegg. The cost of assessments for five candidates is $9,600.

The interview panels and the evaluators from BadgeQuest will provide reports to Rees, who will then determine which of the candidates he wants to interview. The city manager appoints the police chief, subject to confirmation by the City Council.

The city is not disclosing the identities of the candidates, to avoid discouraging applicants who might not want their current employers to know about their job searches.

The salary range for the position has not been disclosed. Miles said the search committee talked to candidates about their salary expectations so no one will be surprised. Craig was hired in 2009 at an annual salary of $91,500.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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