The city has released the names of two finalists for Forsyth police chief: interim chief Eddie Harris and Savannah police Maj. Richard Zapal.
But the betting money is on Harris, as one top city official asked about the decision couldn’t recall Zapal’s name.
The position has been open since Chief Keith Corley announced his retirement last December. Harris has served as interim chief since that time.
City administrator Janice Hall released the finalists on Thursday, and Mayor Eric Wilson said he expects her to announce her final decision next Thursday, Sept. 1.
Hall had discussed with city council restructuring the city’s public safety personnel by hiring a public safety director to administer both the fire and police departments. But they decided to keep the existing structure with a fire chief and police chief.
Twenty-seven candidates applied to be chief, and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police screened the applications for the city and gave it a list of eight who were highly qualified. Hall put together a committee who interviewed four of those applicants and then recommended two of them to her for selection.
The committee interviewing applicants included council member Chris Hewett, council member Dexter King, St. James Baptist Church pastor Antonio Proctor, Monroe County School Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman and Hall. Hall said that the choice rested solely with her; the committee only made recommendations to her.
“She makes the decision,” said Hewett. “We have to live with it whether we like it or not.”
Richard Zapal, 54, is the major in charge of the Investigation Division at the Savannah-Chatham Police Department. He has been a police officer in Savannah for 34 years. He attained the rank of major, the department’s second highest rank, in 2012 and took over supervision of one of the department’s two patrol precincts.
Articles about Zapal in the Savannah press emphasize his leadership and his community-oriented policing. In April he organized a camp for youth ages 8-14 to encourage rapport with law enforcement and to offer alternatives to other activities over the summer months. In one interview, Zapal emphasized that it is important for an officer to learn not only from his superiors but also from his peers and those who serve under him, looking to them for guidance.
Zapal had success solving homicides and making arrests in metal thefts disrupting his area.
Zapal holds a Bachelor’s in criminal justice from Kaplan University and a Masters in public administration from Columbus State University.
Eddie Harris, 51, is a native of Forstyh. He is a veteran of 32 years with the Forsyth Police Department and held the rank of major, supervising the patrol division, before being named interim chief on Dec. 4.
He has been able to hire some additional officers since he took over. He got council’s approval to relax some of the regulations on tattoos to help in recruiting officers. The department, which has about 25 employees, including about 18 officers, had been plagued by being understaffed before Corley’s retirement.
An article reported that Zapal’s salary when he was promoted to major in Savannah in April 2013 was $83,299. Harris’s salary as interim chief is $63,036.
Hall said that she plans to announce her selection for chief after Aug. 31, perhaps at the city council meeting on Sept. 6.