At the conclusion of a nationwide search, City Manager David Corliss on Friday announced his choice for police chief: Tarik Khatib, a 19-year veteran of the Lawrence Police Department.
During an afternoon news conference at City Hall in which Corliss made the announcement, Khatib stepped up — without notes — to address the officers and city staff members who’d gathered.
“A lot of what we do in the community as police officers is based on doing things from the heart,” he said. “I’m very humbled and honored to be selected.”
Corliss said Khatib stood out during the search process and interviews.
“I wanted the best person in the position,” he said. “I wasn’t so much concerned about where they were from. It was about where they were going.
Khatib, who has served as interim chief since September, pledged to work to improve the department while at the same time paying respect to the man he replaced: longtime Chief Ron Olin, who retired last year to become director of security and internal controls for Kansas Athletics Inc.
“We’ll continue to build upon the great department Chief Olin left for us,” Khatib told the audience, which included Olin. “And we’ll continue to add and look to the future and increase our public interactions as we’ve been doing lately to try to communicate more with the community about the challenges we face.”
Corliss, who has the authority to make the selection, picked Khatib after conducting a national search that attracted 41 applicants from eight states.
Khatib and three other finalists — police administrators from Olathe, Overland Park and Lincoln, Neb. — interviewed and met the public last week in Lawrence.
The three other finalists were Brian Jackson, a Lincoln, Neb., police captain; Mark Kessler, a deputy chief in Overland Park; and Clark Morrow, an Olathe police captain. One other finalist, Tom Stolz, a deputy chief in Wichita, dropped out of the running after saying he worried that his wife would not be able to get a teaching job in the Lawrence area because of the state’s budget crisis.
Corliss said Khatib stood out as the top candidate.
“I think Tarik is going to take the police department, a very good police department, to the next step of one of a high quality,” he said.
The city manager credited Khatib for his work as interim chief and during the interview process.
“He’s consistently focused. He’s a hard worker,” Corliss said. “He’s got tremendous law-enforcement values of attention to integrity and of the rule of law.”
Khatib will make $110,000 a year in his new job and oversee a department with an operating budget of $14.2 million that has a work force of about 140 officers and 40 civilian staff members.
As Corliss and Khatib talked about working to improve the department going forward, Mayor Mike Amyx discussed Khatib’s experience in Lawrence.
“This is a big day in Lawrence, Kansas,” he said. “Tradition is something that’s very important to me, and I know this community and you are carrying quite a tradition.”
Laura Routh, who has advocated for the city to have more oversight of the police department with citizen involvement, said she had some misgivings about the new chief coming from within the department.
“But with that said, I have met and visited with (Khatib), and I guess at this point I remain cautiously optimistic that he represents a positive step forward and a positive change for the police department,” she said.
Detective Mike McAtee, chairman of the collective bargaining unit Lawrence Police Officers Association, said officers and detectives were happy with the process and the outcome.
“We have a very good department. But like anything you can always do better, and I think he wants to take a very good department and make it better,” McAtee said.
Khatib, 43, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, moved with his parents when he was 11 to Lake Forest, Ill., in suburban Chicago. He followed in his mother’s footsteps and attended Kansas University, where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, before joining the department. He lives in Lawrence with his wife, Chrisy, and two sons, Colton and Drake.
Since being named interim chief, Khatib, who has worked in nearly every facet of the department, has stressed community interaction as a common theme at department functions.
“Ultimately it’s your police department,” he said at the news conference. “We’re just the stewards and caretakers for a time.”
After Friday’s announcement, he was preparing for an evening graduation ceremony for six new officers.
“That’s probably more important to me right now, making sure I interact with our newest officers,” Khatib said, “and bring a message to them about what our expectations are in the community for what they’re going to be doing here shortly.”