Perhaps Mesa desires a new police chief who carries a fresh perspective, who employs an outsider’s eye when examining the department’s inner workings.
But what if the city doesn’t want to hire someone completely unfamiliar with law enforcement in America’s 40th-largest city?
If so, then a solid compromise candidate might be found working a few miles to the west.
John L. Buchanan, one of Mesa’s four semifinalists, is an assistant chief in Phoenix’s police department. While Phoenix isn’t Mesa, it’s close.
“The laws are very similar; there are some ordinances, I’m sure, that are different, but certainly the bulk of the criminal code is the same,” said Buchanan, 54. “Many of our organizations train at various times and places together, so there’s a sense of the way we do business in Arizona and here in the Valley that I’ve got.”
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady sees value in that.
“He knows the area, the region,” Brady said. “He’s familiar with Mesa. So, I think that certainly is to his benefit.”
A panel of city and civic leaders will interview the candidates on Friday, and Brady will name his choice next month. The City Council will then ratify Brady’s pick in June.
Of course, Buchanan has qualifications far beyond his proximity to Mesa.
A 33-year law enforcement veteran, he reached the level of assistant chief in 2000 and now runs the Homeland Security Division. His most recent accomplishment was planning and carrying out security for the recent downtown immigration-rights march. The totals: 100,000 marchers plus an assortment of counter-demonstrators, and zero arrests.
“The results, I think, speak for themselves,” Buchanan said.
Union leaders for Phoenix’s officers speak highly of Buchanan, praising his intelligence, street smarts and willingness to listen to all sides.
His resume also lists such esoteric accomplishments as a journalism degree, acceptance into a Harvard University program for senior executives at the local government level, and consulting with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop police forces in Haiti and Nigeria.
With those credentials, it’s easy to see why Buchanan was among the finalists for Phoenix’s chief two years ago. The job went to interim chief Jack Harris.