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Community Discord Erupts Over Procedure In Norfolk Hiring

Norfolk’s new top cop selection is under scrutiny from activists and faith leaders over lack of transparency and community involvement

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

After months of conducting a search, Norfolk City Manager, Dr. Chip Filer and city leaders last week introduced Hampton’s Chief of Police, Mark Talbot, as Norfolk’s new top cop.

Talbot’s tenure in Norfolk will begin May 1.

But the city’s choice of Talbot as the new NPD leader was immediately overshadowed by anger, mistrust, and controversy that continues.

Black activists, civic and faith leaders have expressed a similar concern that Talbot’s hiring lacked transparency because they say the City Manager ignored the selection process as it was laid out beforehand.

Talbot’s hiring was leaked to the media several days before the official announcement. The Guide received a reliable tip from a source the weekend before the official announcement. So, when he was introduced not all press on hand were surprised.

However, public concern arose immediately about the process the City Manager had used to lure Talbot to Norfolk.

While the city’s national search for candidates was engineered by consulting firm Morris & McDaniel, the panel actually reviewing the selection for the new chief was comprised of the City Manager; Alan Archer, Deputy City Manager for Public Safety for the City of Newport News; Norfolk Interim Chief of Police Michael Goldsmith; Norfolk Director of Human Resources Marva Smith; and Talbot, who was hired as Hampton Police Chief less than two years ago. Public input was solicited by the consulting firm from residents, businesses, and community organizations to determine which characteristics were considered by them to be most desirable for the city’s next police chief,

Sources noted there were nearly 40 applicants who were interviewed at some point for the vacancy, which was whittled down to 25 and then 3. Talbot was not among the three finalists.

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Filer has admitted in comments to the media although he respected the credentials of the three finalists, none of them fit the bill.

Filer said he was so impressed with the questions and the body of knowledge Talbot displayed during the encounters with the applicants, he asked if he was interested in the job.

Talbot then applied, and Filer whose position allows him, according to the city’s charter, to hire the police and fire chief selected him.

While introducing Talbot, Filer said, “The most critical conclusion was always to end up with the best person to lead our police department. There is no question Mark Talbot is that person.”

Talbot responded, “I’m honored to have been chosen as the next police chief in Norfolk and to have the opportunity to work alongside the men and women of the Norfolk Police Department.”

The Norfolk NAACP is leading the chorus of concerns and reservations abut the hiring, according to its President, Stacie Armstead.

In a statement to the media the Norfolk NAACP noted it “does not have confidence in the process by which the new Chief of Police was selected.”

“Therefore, we demand an immediate discontinuation of the current hiring process for Mr. Talbot as the next Chief of Police for NPD,” the statement said.

Armstead said in an interview with the GUIDE, that in the past, NAACP leaders were “heavily recruited” to consult and participate in the search for the city’s Police Chief.

The civil rights group was involved in the search that hired former Chief Larry Boone.

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Armstead said the invitation was due to the city’s association with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) which called for community policing in the outreach and engagement between police and residents.

But the NAACP said in its press release, “The 2023 Chief of Police search violates this standard and community confidence.”

“We are requesting the entire process be redone in collaboration with the community.”

The release continued, “How does the interviewer become the finalist? Did Mr. Talbot apply for the position? Did he go through the vetting process like the other candidates? We have serious ethical concerns and questions about Mr. Filer and the City Council practices and guiding principles of the Norfolk Police Department.”

The statement said efforts to dialogue with the Morris & McDaniel Management Consultants and the City Manager have been to no avail.

Apart from lack of transparency and the overall hiring process, the group questioned the city’s oversight in not considering Michele Naughton, Norfolk’s first African-American female assistant chief, as a viable replacement.

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