Pensacola police chief finalists announced, candidate forum set for April 28

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The selection committee for the next Chief of Police for the Pensacola Police Department has recommended three finalists to move forward in the selection process for the position, which will ultimately be selected by Mayor Grover Robinson. 

The finalists are:

  • Booker Hodges, Assistant Commissioner of Law Enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
  • John Ortolano, Chief of Police at the sixth largest municipal agency in New Mexico 
  • Eric Randall, Assistant Chief of Police at Newport News Police Department in Virginia 

These candidates will move forward with final interviews and will also participate in a virtual public candidate forum scheduled for Wednesday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to submit questions for the candidates using the online form by 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25. The forum will be virtual only and will be available to view live at cityofpensacopla.com/video from the Hagler-Mason Conference Room. The forum will also be recorded and available to view by Friday, April 30 on the City of Pensacola website.

Eight semi-finalists were interviewed and scored by the selection committee, who recommended the top ranked candidates move forward in the interview process. The three finalists will meet with the selection committee again in addition to having one-on-one interviews with Mayor Robinson on Thursday, April 29. 

“The selection committee emphasized to me what a strong group of candidates we have, and that all eight of our semi-finalists would be capable of being the next Chief of Police,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “This will not be an easy decision, but I look forward to interviewing the finalists and evaluating whether they are the best fit for Pensacola Police Department and the entire Pensacola community.”

The Pensacola Police Chief Selection Committee consists of the following members:

  • City Administrator Keith Wilkins 
  • Deputy City Administrator Kerrith Fiddler 
  • Human Resources Director Ted Kirchharr
  • Pensacola Fire Department Chief Ginny Cranor
  • City Attorney Susan Woolf 

Pensacola Chief of Police Finalist Bios

Booker Hodges

Booker Hodges is a law enforcement professional who has worked as a school resource officer, patrol deputy, narcotics detective, SWAT operator, patrol overnight watch commander, Inspector, Undersheriff, and Acting Chief Deputy, and Chief of Police. He has overseen a $58 million budget, training, human resources, fleet, professional standards, and technology units. He currently serves as Assistant Commissioner of Law Enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety where he is responsible for overseeing 1,400 employees, a budget over $225 million, encompassing the Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Minnesota Alcohol, and Gambling Enforcement.
 
Booker is the only active police officer in the history of the NAACP to serve as a branch president. During his 5-year tenure as president of the Minneapolis NAACP, Booker was responsible for a landmark agreement to improve working conditions for employees of color and to diversify the Minneapolis Park Board. During his time with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Booker was responsible for the hiring that led to the Ramsey County Jail becoming the first minority-majority staffed correctional facility in the state of Minnesota.
 
Booker has been an instructor for 20 years and is a certified human resource manager. Booker writes a column and is a member of the editorial board for Police1.com, the nation’s largest police news website.
 
Booker is also a sought-after national speaker on the topics of unconscious bias and recruiting/retention of 21st century workforces.
 
Booker earned a doctorate degree in public administration from Hamline University, a masters degree from Saint Mary’s University, and a bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. Booker’s experience in community relations and law enforcement are unique and they have given him a dual perspective on current events surrounding the law enforcement profession. Booker is also an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University in Saint Paul, Minnesota and President of the Northstar Chapter of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

John Ortolano

John currently serves as the Chief of Police at the sixth largest municipal police agency in New Mexico and has been recognized as a forward-thinking police executive who has built trust between the community and the police profession. John serves on many national and State level policing committees to include the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, as well as the National Institute of Justice’s Body Armor Committee.

Prior to becoming a Chief of Police, John served for over 21 years with the Arizona Dept. of Public Safety where he retired as a Captain. As a Captain he served as the Patrol Commander in Central Phoenix and the District Commander over the State Gang Task Force in Phoenix, as well as the Executive Officer at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy where he trained over 1,000 recruits.

John has private industry experience working at a private technical college and power plants where he was a licensed Engineer. John proudly served on active duty in the Navy for six years as a nuclear reactor operator on an aircraft carrier. John also previously served in the Army National Guard as a Combat Medic. John is a Desert Storm veteran and has a Master’s in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Emergency Management and Disaster Management. 

Eric Randall

Assistant Chief Randall began his career with Newport News Police Department in 1998 as an auxiliary officer. In February 2000, he became a full-time officer where he worked as a patrol officer, bike officer, field training officer, narcotics detective, and explosive breacher on the department’s tactical operations unit.

In 2006, Assistant Chief Randall was promoted to Sergeant where he served as a supervisor in patrol and the Organized Crime Division. As a sergeant in Organized Crime Division, he led investigations related to the illegal distribution of narcotics and supervised the FBI’s Peninsula Safe Streets Task Force.

In 2010, Assistant Chief Randall was promoted to Lieutenant. As a Lieutenant, he served in a variety of assignments to include Acting Precinct Commander, Acting Criminal Investigations Commander, and Tactical Operations Unit Commander (SWAT).

On November 16, 2014, he was promoted to Captain and served as the South Precinct Commander.

On August 14, 2017, he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police and serves as the Investigations Bureau Commander.

Assistant Chief Randall earned both a MS and BA in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University. He is a graduate of the 63rd session of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) – Senior Management Institute for Police. During his law enforcement career, Assistant Chief Randall has received numerous awards and commendations to include the two Life Saving Awards, 2014 Homeless Outreach Collaborative Team Outstanding Community Service Award, 2012 William F. Corvello Leadership Award, 2010 United States Attorney Public Service Award, 2009 Federal Bureau of Investigation Top Gang Investigation, NOBLE Criminal Justice Achievement Award, and the United States Attorney Award for Excellence in Management. 

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