Portsmouth Police Chief says background check standards for potential hires are too “old school”

Posted at 9:52 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 23:17:30-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Police Chief Tonya Chapman says there are 39 vacancies in the department that need to be filled, and the city's hiring process is not making it easy.

"Some of the applicants that I've sent over that I thought was qualified, entire staff thought were qualified and would be good officers, they were declined," she says.

Chief Chapman spoke during a city council work session on Tuesday after a representative for the Civil Service Commission gave an overview of their role when it comes to public safety.

A majority approval by the three-person panel is needed to sign off on a background check before a candidate can be hired as a police officer or firefighter.

Chief Chapman says she tried to meet with the commission about changing their standards, concerning topics like smoking marijuana, but the commission would not budge.

"This generation is different than someone we hired in the 90`s," says Chief Chapman.

"So, another words, they've all smoked a little weed," says. Mayor Kenny Wright in response.

"They all smoked a little weed," says Chief Chapman. "One of the comments were if they smoked weed more than 10 to 20 times, that means they have a drug dealer and can be influenced, so they shouldn't be police officers. That makes no sense."

Other council members agreed with Chief Chapman.

Some, including Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas, feel they should move towards getting rid of the commission completely.

"It's time for a change," she says.

Mayor Kenny Wright suggested that they meet with the entire commission before making any decisions.

If council did decide to move towards getting rid of the commission, there would be several steps, according to the city manager. The chiefs would have to discuss it with their staff, the city would have to hold a public hearing, and the city would also need to submit a legislative package by November so the General Assembly could vote on the decision.