The four candidates for the next chief of police in Oakland that were put forward this week by the city's police commission addressed the public and introduced themselves at a candidate forum Thursday night.

But the elephant in the room at Thursday's event was the absence of Mayor Sheng Thao, who will ultimately be responsible for making the hire of the next police chief. Thao announced Wednesday that she would not be participating in the candidate forum because she disagrees with the manner in which this process is being handled.

Specifically, Thao said that two qualified candidates for the top-cop job whom she has been courting took themselves out of the running when they found out they would need to participate in a candidate forum before taking the job. Publicly vying for the role, Thao says, will put these individuals in an awkward position with their current employers — one of whom is currently the chief of police in another mid-sized city.

Thao also argued that the open forum sets the city up to get prematurely into a bidding war with the candidate's current employer, who may want to keep them.

But the Oakland Police Commission undertook this same process to make the last hire, under former Mayor Libby Schaaf, which was former Chief LeRonne Armstrong. Armstrong was hired from within the department, though, and therefore did not have another employer to answer to.

Merlin Edwards, a 66-year resident of Oakland and a board member of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, tells KPIX that he, for one, was happy to see transparency in the process.

"Citizens of the city should have the opportunity to know who they are, where they came from," Edwards told the station. "What are their qualifications? What can they do to improve the conditions we have in the city. The question becomes 'can they do something about it?'"

Edwards also spoke to KTVU Thursday evening, saying, "The forum is great. I think you should always have a forum when you are going to select someone like a chief of police."

Each of the four candidates was asked what they would do in their first 100 days on the job, and how they would work to change the culture of the Oakland Police Department — which has been beset by numerous scandals over the last two decades, the most recent of which took down Armstrong.

As KTVU notes, the candidates spoke about going on "listening tours" in the city, and getting an understanding of what the community needs most from the police.

The four candidates are former San Leandro Police Chief Abdul Pridgen; former Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell; Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Lisa Davis; and Louis Molina, New York City's former Commissioner of the Department of Correction and current Assistant Deputy Mayor of Public Safety.

As SFNews discussed earlier, each of the candidates, with the exception of Davis, seems to come with some professional baggage that led them to be in the market for a new job in a new city. In the case of Pridgen, he recently formally resigned from the San Leandro PD after being on administrative leave for unspecified "department policy violations."

The candidates were not asked about these issues at Thursday's meeting — the public was able to submit questions ahead of time, but not able to ask them during the forum.

As ABC 7 reports, the candidates spoke in mostly general terms about how they would get to work if they were given the job.

"I've worked in policing. I've worked in the District Attorney's office, and I've worked in corrections," said Molina. "I think if I'm given the opportunity to lead this department, you'll see significant, tremendous impact not only how we manage and make Oakland safer from a crime perspective, but how we improve livability throughout the city."

Davis spoke about putting more officers on foot patrol in the downtown core of Oakland, and she said, "The way we treat people matters and that's how accountability shows."

Davis also spoke to being supportive of police reform, saying, "You can be pro-police and be about police reform. Those aren't mutually exclusive."

Pridgen said, "Many people will tell you accountability is my middle name. The success or failure of the Oakland Police Department will fall squarely on my shoulders and I welcome the challenge."

And Mitchell said, "In my experience, the way you change culture and behavior is accountability. I believe it starts from the top down, and I ask people to hold me accountable for what I do."

Mitchell left his role leading the Lubbock Police Department following a report last summer that revealed tens of thousands of 911 calls in the city were being dropped or ignored.

Molina, who remains employed by the City of New York, was removed from a job overseeing the city's jails after an uptick in in-custody deaths last year.

The commission will now present its slate of finalists to Mayor Thao, who will make a final decision on the next chief. Thao previously rejected a slate of three candidates that were presented by the commission in December, one of whom was former Chief Armstrong, and one of whom was Pridgen.

Previously: Oakland Police Commission Still Playing Politics, Unveils Latest Slate of Four Candidates for Chief