Afzal narrowly beat out Carper for Dayton police chief job

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday talked about her selection of Kamran Afzal as Dayton's new police chief. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Caption
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday talked about her selection of Kamran Afzal as Dayton's new police chief. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

City Manager calls it “difficult decision.” Carper says department will support new chief

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday said she selected Kamran Afzal to be Dayton’s new police chief over the other finalist, interim police director and chief Matt Carper, but it was a very tough call.

“This was probably one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make since being city manager,” Dickstein said.

Some community members who were involved in the chief selection process or the police reform process say they were pleased and surprised that Afzal was picked, especially since he faced a veteran internal candidate who had the support of the police union and some local stakeholders. Afzal is chief of police in Hopewell, Va.

“I just felt like the city of Dayton really listened, and Shelley Dickstein really took into account the different opinions of the panels and committees,” said Jennie Valdez, a community advocate who was involved with assessment and selection processes. “I felt like they were listening to what community members and professionals were giving them in feedback.”

Dickstein said earlier this month the list of police chief finalists shrank from four to two following assessment testing, interview panels and a Q&A session.

ExplorePrevious: Dayton names Afzal police chief

Caption
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday talked about her selection of Kamran Afzal as Dayton's new police chief. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday talked about her selection of Kamran Afzal as Dayton's new police chief. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Caption
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Monday talked about her selection of Kamran Afzal as Dayton's new police chief. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dickstein said she ultimately picked Afzal for the job because of his demonstrated leadership experience.

She said Afzal’s “seasoned set” of leadership skills will serve the police department and community in this difficult time and climate.

Racial justice protests erupted in Dayton and nationwide in May 2020 after George Floyd was killed by law enforcement in Minnesota. That resulted in Dayton city leaders launching a new police reform initiative.

ExplorePrevious: Biehl retires after 13 years as Dayton police chief
Caption
Kamran Afzal

Kamran Afzal
Caption
Kamran Afzal

Dayton is at an important juncture when it comes to police reform, and a recent traffic stop involving a Black paraplegic man who was yanked from his vehicle has drawn national attention and outraged some community members.

Also, a citywide survey recently found that a shrinking share of Dayton residents said they greatly value policing services or have “great respect” for police.

Dayton’s new police chief needs to grow and strengthen police-community relationships, as well as continue to increase “the great things we do in the police department,” Dickstein said.

“I believe that Kamran’s leadership style will be very inclusive,” she said.

Dickstein said the community is frustrated and clearly wants to see things done differently.

Caption
Interim Dayton police Chief Matt Carper at Wednesday's city commission meeting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Interim Dayton police Chief Matt Carper at Wednesday's city commission meeting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Caption
Interim Dayton police Chief Matt Carper at Wednesday's city commission meeting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

At the same time, she said, police officers are frustrated because they do not feel like they have the community’s support despite the “amazing work” they do each day.

Carper and Afzal are both knowledgeable and put a lot of time and effort into their careers, but Afzal has a diverse background and life and career experiences, said Valdez, who was involved in the assessment and selection work.

Afzal, 54, was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. His father was a naval officer in Pakistan and his grandfather was a police superintendent with the British Indian Police.

Internal candidates often wind up being selected for open leadership positions like this one, Valdez said, and she was a little worried that the city might have already made up its mind before the screening process began.

But she said the process was thorough, and the city went in a different direction than she expected, making a good choice in Afzal.

She said the police department’s image isn’t great right now, and hopefully the new chief can help change that.

“This gave me hope for the city of Dayton, because I think sometimes you can get this feeling that maybe your city officials are not fully listening,” she said.

Afzal is the chief of police of Hopewell, Virginia, which has 68 sworn police personnel. He will be sworn in as Dayton’s police chief on Dec. 20, at which time he will lead a force of 368 sworn officers.

David Greer, who also participated in the police chief selection and reform process, said he was impressed by Afzal and thinks he has some good qualities.

But Greer said his preference is to promote from within.

Carper on Monday told this newspaper that the police department will support Afzal, and that command staff and city leaders will work together to ensure a smooth transition.

“Police officers have a very difficult job, and I will continue to support them and make sure they have the necessary resources and are prepared to handle the challenging situations they face,” Carper said.

Caption
A Dayton police officer in the Oregon District. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A Dayton police officer in the Oregon District. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Caption
A Dayton police officer in the Oregon District. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The city hired three consultants to help vet, screen and pick a new police chief.

Waverly Partners was the executive search firm, and Jack Clancy Associates handled assessment training and an all-day assessment test.

Police Management Solutions Inc. assisted with the overall process, said Kenneth Couch, Dayton’s human resources director.

“We went to every length to make sure that we had all the professional help that we could and get the community involved in it,” Couch said. “Most of the candidates reported back that this was the most thorough process they had ever gone through.”

About 30 people expressed interest in the police chief job. The pool was cut to four finalists in mid-September: Afzal; Carper; John Pate, the chief administrative officer and public safety director for Opa-locka, Florida; and Joseph Sullivan, the former deputy commissioner of patrol operations for the Philadelphia Police Department.

The finalists took part in all-day assessment testing on Oct. 8, and all but Pate moved forward, Couch said.

Those three candidates then met with four interview panels to answer questions and talk about themselves and their experiences, Couch said.

The panels consisted of five to eight community members, including business and neighborhood leaders, city officials said.

A fifth panel met with each of the finalists for about an hour and half, and the candidates were asked to give 30-minute presentations on police reform, Couch said.

After that, candidates participated in a Q&A session with about 14 community members who were in the audience, Couch said.

The list was whittled down to Carper and Afzal, who then met with the city manager, the deputy city managers and the HR director for another round of interviews. The city announced Afzal’s hiring Friday night.

About the Author