Editor's note: The news release. Below the news release is copy of the story published Dec. 6 when Allen was named interim chief:

"March 31, 2008 – El Paso,Texas- City Manager, Joyce Wilson announced that she has appointed Gregory Allen as the next Chief of Police for El Paso. Chief Allen emerged as the top candidate among the participants after a very extensive process. This included a detailed written application, a supplemental questionnaire, background and reference checks, three separate panel interviews involving nearly 30 individuals representing a broad array of stakeholders – internal and communitywide – a community forum and a final individual interview.

"Chief Allen has unified support among the rank and file and command staff, which is important right now as there are a lot of pressures on the department in terms of recruitment, retention and motivation. As a seasoned, mature law enforcement professional, he can help tremendously to grow the department, stabilize turnover and inspire loyalty within the department. He also has a keen sense of crime fighting and order maintenance which are important issues facing the community as it continues to grow.

"Chief Allen will be at the Council Chambers tomorrow at 8:30 am to meet and greet the members of City Council."

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From Dec. 6, 2007

City Manager Joyce Wilson today appointed Deputy Chief Gregory Allen as the Interim Chief of Police to succeed outgoing Chief Richard Wiles, who is retiring from the department.

In her first high-profile appointment since being selected as El Paso’s first city manager, Wilson choose Allen over Assistant Chiefs Diana Kirk and Paul Cross in a move she said would allow for a stable transition period between Wiles administration, the interim’s tenure and the selection of a new permanent police chief.

Allen will serve as interim chief for 60 days. Beginning next week, Allen will begin his duties and work with Wiles to develop a transition plan that Wilson said would outline “the key activities and issues needing attention between now and mid-February.” He will then be “rotated out” and the position will go to one of the department’s assistant chiefs, Wilson said. She noted that in mid-February, at the end of his 60-day tenure, Allen could remain in the position “depending on where we (the city) are in the recruitment process.”

That structure, Wilson said, would give her several advantages. She stated that she did not know any of the candidates very well as she mainly dealt with Wiles on police issues. She also stated that Allen’s appointment was the least disruptive to the department, “because it does allow the two assistant chiefs (Kirk and Cross) to stay in place in their current position and maintain continuity.” She added that choosing Allen allowed her to defuse “what I consider to be a competition between the two (assistant) chiefs, not between themselves but externally, I think it was becoming unhealthy,” implying that media inquiries and leaks may have led to the perception that the two were jockeying for the position. She wrote a memo to the mayor, city council and the media addressing the issue [link.]

Allen, 56, is a nearly 30-year veteran of the police department. Before serving as Deputy Chief for the past four years, Allen worked as acting commander of the Mission Valley Regional Command Center.

He thanked Wilson for “her vote of confidence,” and he also thanked Wiles for promoting him to the command staff in 2003, allowing him to “experience the technical operations of the department, how it functions at its most fundamental level in supporting the people in the field.”

Wilson stated that she was consistently told that Allen possesses an understanding of the street: “He understands crime-fighting at the street level, and he understands the patrolman’s role in community policing and neighborhood-oriented policing as being the most essential component of law enforcement,” she stated.

After the conference, Allen said he was surprised by the appointment. “Being singled out as the person to take over the position when he leaves is something that really for me is an accomplishment. There are a lot of people that could have been chosen. I’m glad I was it, but it’s not to say that the other people aren’t qualified as well.”

Though Allen ranks one spot below Kirk and Cross, he said “you could have all the background you need in order to move up the ladder as far as education, but a lot of times what gets the job done is what the people on the street think of you.”

He added that he has a good rapport with officers and that surprises him because of his record in dealing with officer discipline: “I’ve never been one light on discipline, but I’m the type of person where the person knows they’ve been disciplined, but I let it go. I try not to make it a career-ruining experience for them.”

Reactions

City Rep. Steve Ortega said he could not comment on Allen because he has not had the opportunity to meet him. He said that Wilson did not approach him for suggestions as to who should be appointed as interim chief, although he did suggest to her that Cross become the interim chief.

Regardless of who was appointed, Ortega said, there are two considerations that should be taken into account.

“I’ll expect indicators like our safest city designation and crime rates to stay the same or improve,” he said. “Also, officer misconduct should be handled in a matter that is firm and fair.”

Mayor John Cook said he believes Wilson made a good choice in appointing Allen, but he feels that any member of the command staff could do an equally good job. “I’d endorse all six of them,” he said.

Officer Bobby Holguin, president of the El Paso Municipal Police Officers' Association, said Allen was the association's choice.

"That decision was made the second week of November," Holguin said. He said it was a unanimous decision by the board, which is made up of two or three officers from each regional command.

"He is one of the most respected officers in the department," Holguin said. He said that the association recommended Allen get the job permanently.

Holguin said he talked to the assistant and deputy chiefs to let them know of the association's stance, and "I let Joyce Wilson know as well. Of course, her comment was she has the ultimate say-so, and as an association we respect that.

"I did tell her regardless who she chose the Police Officer's Association would respect that choice and work with whoever she chose," Holguin said.

"I truly believe the six assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs there are at least qualified. Although we put our neck out in endorsing Chief Allen, I'd hate to say we couldn’t work with any of them," Holguin said.

City Rep. Beto O'Rourke said he was comfortable with Wilson's choice and procedure.

"I met the guy and he seems like a good guy. Maybe more importantly, I trust Joyce's judgment and I'm sure he's going to be a great interim chief for El Paso," O'Rourke said. "I feel totally comfortable with Joyce making this decision, especially since she's made a commitment when it comes to selecting a permanent chief to working with the community and working with Council on it. She's made good choices for department heads and she has experience from other cities so I feel comfortable with her making the choice."

Wilson’s Decisions

In meeting with all candidates for interim chief, Wilson said she made it clear she did not want any major changes done to the department during the interim administration.

“Whoever stepped in as the interim would have to, one, be committed to keeping the current command staff intact, there would be no new initiatives and there would be no major changes to existing initiatives" she said. "The second thing I gave due consideration to was the fact that I didn’t want to give a sense that there was going to be any perceived competitive advantage to any one individual over another.”

Wilson had previously told NPT that she made her decision one week early in order to quell the news media appetite for information and also end speculation on who might be take over the position.

“When you start having media leaks, and the media talking about who might not be qualified and who’s qualified, and people making inquiries that were not really constructive in terms of dividing the candidates, I think that’s really inappropriate,” Wilson stated on Wednesday of this week. “It needs to be done so we can bring it to closure and get the transition started, because the level of frenzy about it is unusual, frankly. I’ve never seen anything like this for any appointments in my entire career.”

She admits that the upcoming race for El Paso County Sheriff may have something to do with the media frenzy surrounding the appointment – Wiles is widely considered to be a potential candidate, and several retired EPPD officers have already announced their intentions to run – but she believes people are surprised at Wiles’ retirement. “I think that kind of caught people off guard,” she said.

Selecting the Next Chief

Between now and early January, the city will be accepting applications from candidates interested in becoming the permanent police chief. In the job description posted by the city [link], applicants should have an accredited bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, business or public administration or a related field, and 10 years police operations which included six years in a third level police supervisory position such as captain or commander.

Wilson stated than in choosing the next chief there are personnel policies and equivalency guidelines that will allow the city to substitute minimum qualifications for the position.

Once the applications deadline has closed, there will be an assessment process that will include candidate evaluations and background checks, after which the pool will be narrowed down a list of top candidates. Those candidates will then go through a review process with what Wilson called “critical stakeholders” in the community: the mayor and city council, police department command staff, association leaders and citizens who are active in the department.

“At the end of the day, the appointment that I make for the permanent police chief will be somebody who this community will be proud of, who will respect the values of this community and who will be totally and completely committed to the organization and to the City of El Paso,” Wilson said. She expressed that she is looking for a candidate who will commit the position for “at least four to five years” in the interest of sustaining stability for the department’s major initiatives.

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