The city of Victoria has narrowed the search for its new police chief to three finalists, officials announced Friday.

“The chief of police holds one of the most important positions within the city,” City Manager Jesús Garza said in a city news release.

The finalists are Roberto (Robert) Arredondo Jr., major for the Dallas Police Department; George (Rich) Austin Jr., chief of police for the city of Milton, Ga.; and Vernell Dooley Jr., chief of police for the city of Glenn Heights.

The search for a new police chief began earlier this year after former Chief J.J. Craig announced he was resigning from his position with the city of Victoria to take a job as the police chief in Richmond.

Craig was selected to serve as Victoria’s police chief in 2011. Throughout his years with the department, he has “done a great job enhancing the police department from a community standpoint and from a technology standpoint,” Garza said when Craig announced his departure.

Craig, who said he was proud to have been a part of the Victoria community, had his last day in June.

The city has been working with executive recruitment firm Strategic Government Resources to find candidates to fill the position.

The city of Victoria received 53 applications from candidates in 22 states – an “outstanding pool of candidates,” Garza said in the release, that “reaffirms the positive reputation that our police department and community have.”

Arredondo has more than 22 years of law enforcement experience and serves in the appointed executive rank of major for the Dallas Police Department.

He also has been a division commander since 2015. A veteran of the United States Army, he joined the Dallas Police Department in 1996 as a patrol officer and was promoted through the ranks, holding positions including detective and sergeant in the Homicide Unit and Robbery Unit and gang enforcement officer.

Arredondo will graduate with a master’s in public affairs from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley later this year.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Tarleton State University.

Austin has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience and has served as the chief of police for the City of Milton since 2017.

He began his law enforcement career with the Pineville Police Department in North Carolina. Austin joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in Charlotte, N.C., in 1993 as a patrol officer and rose through the ranks, holding the positions of sergeant, lieutenant and captain before transitioning to Milton.

Austin earned a doctorate in Public Administration from California Baptist University, a master’s in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Dooley has more than 15 years of law enforcement experience and serves as the chief of police for the City of Glenn Heights.

He has been its highest-ranking police officer since 2017.

He began his law enforcement career in Denton, as a police officer with the Denton Police Department in 2005.

Dooley rose through the ranks, holding the positions of sergeant and director of training. He also served as interim assistant to the Denton city manager 2016-2017.

Dooley earned a master’s in public administration from the University of North Texas, a master’s in criminology/criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Texas.

A sole finalist for the position could be announced at the end of the month.

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Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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