Akron's new police chief is a Kenmore kid who went on to work against Los Angeles street gangs as an FBI agent.
James Nice, 56, was announced Friday as the city's top lawman, ending a national search that's lasted more than two years.
He becomes the city's first chief who didn't rise from the ranks of Akron patrolman.
''The main reason I've made this choice,'' he said, '' . . . is that I just wanted to do public service in my hometown.''
Nice is a Kenmore High School and University of Akron graduate. He has been with the FBI since 1985 and is based in Washington, D.C., as chief of undercover and sensitive operations.
Akron police have been without a permanent chief since Michael Matulavich retired in December 2008.
Terms of Nice's hiring will be discussed
Monday at a news conference formally introducing him. Word of his hiring passed through the 440-officer department Friday.
In the past, the chief has served under a four-year contract at the pleasure of the mayor and has been paid about $112,000 annually.
''Jim Nice will make an excellent chief,'' Mayor Don Plusquellic said. ''He has demonstrated his law-enforcement skills at the highest levels, knows our city and is highly regarded by police professionals in our community.''
Nice will replace interim Chief Craig Gilbride, who is serving a second stint as a temporary chief.
Gilbride was among several community leaders involved in the hiring process.
''I think he will be a great asset to the police department and hopefully bring stability to the APD down the line,'' Gilbride said.
A nationwide search, assisted by the Police Executive Research Forum, a national consulting firm, led to 13 candidates.
Nice emerged in March as a finalist with David Morris, a major with the Prince George's County (Md.) police force.
Morris, who has 15 years of commander experience, was considered the front-runner because of his experience working in a regional department with 1,500 officers.
That department's organizational model is similar to what Plusquellic has envisioned when discussing possible operations mergers with the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
But Morris recently turned down an offer from Plusquellic to take the job, opening the door for Nice to return home.
''I was impressed with [Nice's] professionalism,'' said Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander, who also assisted in the search. ''He had spent so much time working the streets during his career that he has what I would call a 'street cop's mentality' that will serve him well in an urban setting like Akron.''
Nice did not return an email Friday seeking comment.
In a news release issued by the city, Nice echoed regional law-enforcement sentiments, recalling an undercover operation in which he worked a gang investigation with Summit County deputies and Akron police.
''The people of Akron are lucky to have law enforcement that works together better than anyplace I have ever seen,'' Nice said.
Paul Hlynsky, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said there will be a learning curve for Nice and Akron's officers, who are unaccustomed to a chief appointed from outside the department.
Hlynsky said he has never met Nice; he and most officers learned of the hiring either through reporters or social media.
Police officers, who on Friday completed a contentious contract battle with the city, have been critical of the chief hiring process, which eliminated captains from applying for the job. They also have opposed regional police concepts.
''I think he will be given every opportunity to succeed,'' Hlynsky said. ''As president, I will ask every member to give him every opportunity to get acclimated and give him a chance to learn.''
Beacon Journal staff writer Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or email@example.com.