BRIDGEPORT — The International Association of Police Chiefs will advertise the city's vacant chief position nationally in Police Chief magazine and on the organization's Web site starting next week.

But the new chief will have a lot on his plate, based on the standards demanded by police officers and the public at an IACP session in City Hall on Thursday night to discuss the chief search.

It was the first of two public hearings held on the search; the second is at noon today in City Hall. Eight officers were among the 21 gathered Thursday.

The city's new chief will have to resolve understaffing and funding issues, said police Sgt. John R. Cueto, a Mounted Unit supervisor.

"The ranks are decimated," he said, adding that the department has 60 to 85 unfilled positions.

Cueto said that aging equipment and lack of equipment threaten officer safety and, consequently, public safety.

Lt. Roderick G. Porter, head of the Police Department's Office of Internal Affairs, said he wants the new chief to bring the city into compliance with a federal court order requiring a rotation plan moving black officers through specialized Police Department units.

The plan must be implemented no later than Oct. 2.

Several of the eight officers endorsed provisional Chief Anthony Armeno for the chief's job. He has not yet applied, but has expressed an interest in it; applications must be postmarked by Sept. 15.

Lt. A.J. Perez said Armeno "is the right man for the job."

Porter said Armeno is bringing the city into compliance with the court order.

But members of Bridgeport First, a citizen's group interested in the chief selection process, asked whether the IACP would include in its review a domestic violence incident involving a possible candidate they did not identify, but who likely is Armeno.

He was accused of domestic violence during a personal relationship he had about a decade ago with a female Bridgeport police officer.

He was eventually disciplined, but never arrested, over the domestic violence complaints filed by the officer.

The audience also asked about the selection process.

Kim J. Kohlhepp, manager of IACP's Center for Testing Services and Executive Search in Alexandria, Va., said he expects about 50 applications and will first whittle them down to fewer than 10. Then, they will interview remaining candidates by phone, and call their colleagues and subordinates for references.

The candidates will next be tested using mock citizen interviews and an "Inbox" exercise where they must handle office situations they would encounter on the job.

IACP would initially take education into account, Kohlhepp said. The city prefers chiefs to have a four-year college degree. Armeno does not have one.

The association will then recommend three candidates to the mayor, who has the final say.

Kohlhepp added that he hopes to have three candidates by year's end.

He said there are advantages to both hiring internal candidates and those from elsewhere.

Two out-of-town candidates have applied, but Ralph Jacobs, the city's personnel director, said he did not immediately know their names Thursday evening.

Former Chief Wilbur L. Chapman resigned abruptly in late January and accepted a hastily prepared buyout of his contract, after the Board of Police Commissioners voted not to renew it.

Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.