Three candidates for the position of Durham Police Chief expressed similar views on a variety of law enforcement issues and answered questions from the community in City Hall Wednesday night.

The three final candidates are the result of a tumultuous eight-month selection process led by Durham City Manager Marcia Conner. Two former finalists, current interim chief Steve Chalmers and Gregory Watkins, resigned from the running after facing allegations they lied about their histories of alleged domestic violence.

After a third finalist, William Carcara, later withdrew himself from the running, Conner began a new search that yielded this week Charles Austin, Henry Evans and Michael Scott, all from outside Durham.

Both Austin and Evans currently lead law enforcement divisions. Scott served as the police chief of Fairfax, Va., until he was appointed assistant inspector general of the U.S. Department of the Interior. However, Scott said he wants to regain a position as a police chief.

"I've tasted life outside local law enforcement and have a very strong desire to return," Scott said.

All the candidates have between 25 and 30 years of law enforcement experience.

They all stressed that they would like to build a partnership with the community to both prevent crime and apprehend criminals.

Austin discussed a program he implemented in Columbia, S.C.--where he is city manager for public safety and supervises the police and fire departments--that teamed police and community resources together to help prevent teen pregnancy, and therefore alleviate conditions that are conducive to poverty and crime.

He said that once the program began, teen pregnancy rates fell. "[In Columbia] we were as much concerned about teen pregnancy prevention as lockin' folk up," Austin said.

Evans stressed that the police department is a partner, and not the only player in crime prevention.

"Given enough time, we'll make [Durham] the safest city in the United States. But we'll need community involvement," said Evans, who commands the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Newport News, Va., and heads a federal violent crimes task force to prosecute violent repeat offenders.

"We have a battle of morals, a battle of values that go beyond what law enforcement can solve," Evans added.

The finalists also weighed in on the problem of gang violence. Scott suggested that a combined approach of intelligence, education and enforcement could help curb the problem.

Evans said that gangs can sometimes provide values and structure for youth who do not receive such support at home, and not all gang activities are violent.

He therefore suggested that the police simultaneously crack down on gang violence while working with gangs who "may be trying to exert positive influence on their neighborhood."

All candidates spoke out against police brutality and agreed that applications of force by individual officers must be reported to the department. Scott pointed out that while police brutality is intolerable, officers have tough jobs and some incidents can be pulled out of context.

He cited a time when a handcuffed criminal spit in his face and he instinctively shoved the man away, only to be cited for brutality.

However, he understood and accepted his reprimand.

The candidates also said that police recruitment efforts need to be improved.

"We need a benefits package that is second to none," Austin said.

When they were asked if they had any past records that would force them to withdraw from the running, as past candidates had, all candidates either straightforwardly or sarcastically answered no. "In 1966, my assistant coach caught me smoking in the boys' bathroom in high school," Evans said.

Durham city officials will now visit the respective jurisdictions of the finalists, and Conner said she will pick a winner by the end of the month.