City Manager Shane Dille is assembling a panel to interview candidates hoping to fill the vacancy created by former Nogales Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkham on June 30.

“I’m reaching out to various agencies to get a technical panel together. I hope to have four or five chiefs of police on board. We’re still coordinating all of that as well as the interview dates,” he said. “We hope to have finalists selected before the end of September.

Between “nine and 11” applicants have been identified who meet the minimum qualifications. Several have applied from Arizona, but also from other parts of the country including Oklahoma and Ohio, “which is something that I wanted,” Dille told the city council last month. “The more you have apply, the better chance you will hire the type of caliber you are looking for.”

The job description calls for at least a bachelor’s degree plus 10 years of experience.

There had been political pressure to ease up on the education degree, which preempts veteran NPD officers who were eyeballing the job. Dille has so far resisted despite overtures by Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada, who vowed to petition the council to revisit the educational qualifications issue. The requirement for a bachelor’s degree is “a disservice to the men and women that have a goal to become chief of police and who may not have had the good fortune or opportunity to obtain a degree,” he said.

Estrada has so far not made good on his pledge and an informal poll in the Nogales International showed that of 514 respondents, 407, or about 80 percent, favored the degree requirement.