Edgartown is beginning its formal search for a new police chief, following the abrupt retirement of the former chief for medical reasons.

“Anyone can apply,” selectman and board chairman Arthur Smadbeck told the Gazette this week. “My hope is that we get people that have some experience in dealing with running a police department. We certainly have people in the department that can do it.”

He added: “I’d like to get it done as soon as possible.”

Town officials said representatives from Integrity Testing LLC will meet with selectmen next week to outline the search process. Integrity Testing LLC was created by former police chief Alfred Donovan from Tewskbury, who also runs APD Management Consultants, and retired Wareham and North Andover police chief Richard Stanley.

The selection process is already under close scrutiny by town residents.

In early December police chief David Rossi told selectmen he was seeking disability retirement after having a heart attack about a week and a half earlier. Selectmen acted on his recommendation to appoint Lieut. Christopher Dolby as the acting police chief.

Lieutenant Dolby told selectmen at the time that he would serve as acting chief for as long as needed, but he was not ready to take on the job permanently. “It’s not the right timing for me . . . maybe down the road some day,” he said at the time.

Speaking to the Gazette this week, Acting Chief Dolby reiterated that he will not be applying for the job. “I’m not interested in the position at this time,” he said.

Mr. Dolby is the son of Pamela Dolby, the town administrator. Mrs. Dolby said that when Mr. Dolby became acting chief, the town had an attorney contact the state ethics commission to make sure there were no conflict of interest concerns. Appropriate disclosures have been filed with the state, she said..

“There’s no conflict because he has no interest in being the chief,” Mrs. Dolby said.

Mr. Smadbeck said Mrs. Dolby is not in charge of the police department, which falls under jurisdiction of the board of selectmen.

At Mr. Rossi’s suggestion, selectmen hired Integrity Testing to guide the process of recruiting and selecting a new chief.

According to the $9,500 contract selectmen approved Dec. 11, the company will work with a panel of community members to establish job qualifications, advertise, recruit candidates, and present finalists to the selectmen. Selectmen are the appointing authority for the police department.

Mrs. Dolby said the community panel members are Edgartown School principal John Stevens, Council on Aging administrator Paul Mohair, fire chief Alex Schaeffer, former Chief Rossi, human resources coordinator Kim Lucas, and one selectman to be determined later.

The group and Integrity Testing staff will vet applications and narrow the group down to a final group of six or so candidates, according to the contract. There will be a testing process for the finalists, and the panel will eventually submit a list of three or so finalists for consideration by selectmen.

Mr. Smadbeck said the town is following a new process by hiring an outside firm to help gather and vet candidates. Mr. Rossi was hired to replace previous Chief Antone Bettencourt upon the recommendation of labor attorney John M. (Jack) Collins. Mr. Collins served as interim police chief while conducting interviews with department members and an evaluation of the department structure. He then recommended selectmen promote Mr. Rossi, then a patrolman, to police chief, and appoint Mr. Dolby as lieutenant.

That process led to criticism and unhappiness, Mr. Smadbeck said, and this time they will cast a wider net, considering candidates from both inside and outside the department. “Eventually we will find the right candidate,” he said.

“I don’t know why this seems to draw such ire from people,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It’s surprising to me.”

Meanwhile, the new process has already been marked by undercurrents, including a quiet campaign to promote a sergeant in the department to chief. An Edgartown resident started a petition on change.org asking selectmen to appoint Sgt. Jonathan Searle to the job. As of Thursday morning the petition had 884 signatures.

The petition has not been submitted to the selectmen. “I haven’t seen it,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “I haven’t talked to Jonathan. I don’t know what he thinks.”

He added: “I’m not sure that helps somebody’s position. This isn’t how you go about hiring somebody.”

Mr. Smadbeck said the selectmen will follow the lead of the consulting company and community group.

“What we’re really looking for is guidance in picking a qualified person,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “We didn’t do it this way last time, people were upset. Now we’re going to do it this way, it seems like people are upset. We can’t win. We’re just going to do the best we can for the town.”