Springfield police chief search down to 2; Woman to lead department for first time

Internal candidate and Columbus applicant are only ones remaining from field of 32 initial applicants.

A Springfield Police Division captain and a Columbus Police Division leader — both women — are the top two candidates in the search for the next Springfield police chief, city officials announced Tuesday.

That means the city will hire its first female chief in the department’s history.

Candidates advancing to the next stage of the city’s search for a new chief are Springfield Police Division Capt. Allison Elliott and a Columbus Police Division Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight.

“This speaks highly of our community and its progress; like other municipalities, our city staff as a whole has become more diversified in recent years, leading us to what will be the appointment of the first female chief of the Springfield Police Division,” said City Manager Bryan Heck.

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Elliott started as an officer in the Springfield Police Division in July 2006 and has worked her way through the ranks, being most recently promoted to captain of the uniform patrol division this year.

“Springfield is home. This is where I grew up, where I was raised,” Elliott told the News-Sun in a September interview for a story about women leaders making a difference locally. “Being able to serve my community that I grew up in has been a blessing.”

Knight has worked in law enforcement for 25 years, 15 of which have been in leadership or executive roles. She currently works as the deputy chief of Columbus Police Division’s patrol operations north division, where she developed and grew the division’s Safe Streets Community Policing initiative.

A total of 32 applications were submitted after the job opening was posted in September following the announcement that current Chief Lee Graf would retire at the end of the year.

That group of applicants was narrowed to seven candidates, including two current employees of the Springfield Police Division, all of whom were interviewed in late November.

That group was reduced to four, each of whom underwent an assessment process last week, according to a city press release issued Tuesday after questions from the Springfield News-Sun about the process Monday. After receiving the scores from those assessments, city officials narrowed the list to two candidates.

“The selection process has been difficult, as so many qualified and skilled people applied for the police chief position. We’re pleased to have had such a robust pool of candidates from which to choose,” said Heck.

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Before he promotion this year, Elliott was lieutenant of the professional standards unit, sergeant of the intelligence unit and sergeant of the uniform patrol for Springfield’s police force. She also has worked as the Crisis Negotiation Team commander since 2008, and she was selected for a leadership position in SWAT this year. She’s a graduate of the State University of New York in Buffalo and has also studied at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs Public Safety Leadership Academy, according to her resume.

Knight has served as the police division’s deputy chief of community services, a commander of patrol operations, commander of internal affairs and commander of technical services. She’s a graduate of Capital University, where she earned both a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a juris doctor from the university’s law school, according to her resume.

The two remaining candidates will sit for a final interview. The next police chief will be appointed by Heck and affirmed by city commission, according to the city’s release.

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Baker Tilly — formerly known as Management Partners — was employed by the city to assist in the recruitment and assessment processes. The firm gathered input from staff and community partners before launching a nationwide search for applicants, including internal submissions, according to the city.

The total 32 applicants included law enforcement people from Bellefontaine, Camden, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Trumbull County, Arizona, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, according to the city.

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