Portland has named three finalists in a nationwide search for the city’s next police chief.

The new chief will replace Michael Sauschuck, who stepped down last summer to become assistant city manager and later was appointed Commissioner of Public Safety by Gov. Janet Mills.

The finalists are Frank Clark, a lieutenant with the South Portland Police Department; Vern Malloch, Portland’s current acting chief of police; and David Mara, former chief of the Manchester Police Department who currently serves as adviser to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on addiction and behavioral health.

The candidates were undergoing a battery of assessments Thursday to evaluate their knowledge and leadership abilities, the city said. Next, the finalists will be interviewed by panels of city staff, police union leaders and community members, before City Manager Jon Jennings makes the final hiring decision.

The group interviews have not yet been scheduled and are likely to be closed to the public, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said.

“Because the police chief is such a public-facing position that works so closely with the various constituencies in our community, I felt it was important to conduct a competitive search process in conjunction with the public and other members of city staff,” Jennings said in a statement Thursday. “I’m pleased we were able to attract well-qualified candidates, and I look forward to reviewing each of them further with police personnel, city officials and community members.”

Malloch has been with the Portland Police Department since 1984, and was assistant chief before he was named interim chief in July 2018, when Sauschuck took the assistant city manager role.

Clark has served in the South Portland Police Department since 1988, and has served as an interim police chief in the past. Clark is working toward his masters of public policy at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service.

Mara served in the Manchester Police Department for nearly 30 years, and served as its chief from 2008 to 2015. He also served as interim chief of the Portsmouth Police Department from 2015 to 2017, when Sununu named him as an adviser. Mara is the only candidate with a law degree, which he received from the New England School of Law.

A total of 28 candidates applied for the position from 18 states. Four applicants were from Maine, while 24 came from out of state. All were men. Four candidates were invited to take part in the assessment process, but one withdrew for personal reasons.

The salary for the incoming chief could range between $112,378 to $134,179, the second-highest tier for non-union city employees.

The city said it did not have any information on the number of non-white applicants because that information was contained on an optional form that no one chose to complete.

The hiring process, including the daylong testing administered Thursday, was handled by Badgequest, an outside firm run by a former police chief from Waltham, Massachusetts, that specializes in top-level public safety recruiting and hiring. The company’s services to date have cost the city $10,000, Grondin said.


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