OAKLAND -- Interim Police Chief Sean Whent appears increasingly likely to land the permanent job after Oakland's federal police overseer praised his work while criticizing the city's search for a new chief.

"For nearly one full year, Interim Chief Sean Whent has competently served while the city's fragmentary attempts to select a permanent chief have consumed public resources and done little to nurture public confidence in the process," Robert Warshaw wrote Friday in his first report since being granted sweeping powers over Oakland's police department.

Warshaw's comments come on the heels of Mayor Jean Quan's ¿endorsement of Whent during a mayoral debate earlier this month.

Asked why she would name a permanent chief with only nine months left in her term, Quan replied that Whent had gotten more "kudos" from (Warshaw) than previous chiefs and has "done a remarkably good job" in trying to satisfy court-mandated reforms stemming from the decade-old Riders police brutality case.

Whent was named interim chief last May after former Chief Howard Jordan unexpectedly retired. Sources said Jordan made his move after learning the department's former federal overseer, Thomas Frazier, was preparing to seek his ouster.

The search for a permanent chief was put on hold in December when the city's headhunting firm quit, citing interference from the mayor's office. It was further delayed this year when the city couldn't come to terms with a recruiting outfit because the organization didn't offer benefits to the partners of employees in same sex relationships.

Oakland last month agreed to pay a new recruiting firm, Ralph Andersen & Associates, $49,950 to do an expedited chief search. Applications are due at the end of the month and a new permanent chief is scheduled to be named within the first two weeks of May.

Quan's spokesman, Sean Maher, said the mayor remained committed to completing an open and fair search for a new chief. He would not disclose how many applications the city has received for the job.

In his report, Warshaw, a former chief in Rochester, N.Y., said the lack of a permanent chief was damaging to the police department and to efforts to get out from under federal oversight.

Without decisive action to name a permanent chief, Warshaw wrote, "The department's strides will either stagnate or regress -- an intolerable circumstance for the men and women of the department and the community they serve."

Warshaw has monitored city progress on the court-mandated reforms since 2010. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson gave him additional power over the department to make sure the reforms get implemented.

A report detailing the department's progress is due for release later this month. However, Warshaw noted three positive signs in his report Friday. Citizen complaints against police are down 65 percent compared to the first three months of last year, he wrote. And arrests have increased while reports of officers using force have declined.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435