Steamboat police chief finalists wrap up second day of interviews
Steamboat Springs — Five members of the Steamboat Springs community learned a lot more about the five finalists — culled from a pool of 96 applicants — vying to be the city’s next police chief.
Following Wednesday’s meeting with police department employees and a community reception, the finalists had a second full day of selling themselves as Steamboat’s next chief.
They met with city department heads, interviewed with the city manager and spent 45 minutes speaking with the community panel Thursday, which a reporter was allowed to attend. The finalists were given a scenario in which they had been the acting chief for 30 days and were going to speak to a community group.
“We’re trying to put them in a real-life situation rather than just interview them,” said Fred Rainguet, who was hired by the city to help with the selection process.
The five members of the community panel were Advocates Building Peaceful Communities Executive Director Diane Moore, Family Development Center Executive Director Tami Havener and business leaders Charlie MacArthur, Bob Dapper and Glen Traylor.
Asked about the two biggest challenges facing the police department, the finalists said their focuses would be on gaining the trust of the community, bringing stability to the department, becoming fully staffed and updating policies.
All the candidates shared their visions for the police department and strategies for getting to know the community and building relationships.
Each candidate was also asked to define transparency and how it should be applied at the police department.
Patty Higgins, a deputy chief in Kansas City, said transparency was “allowing the community access to any information that they are legally allowed to have.”
Higgins said departments have to be protective of some information due to the threat of lawsuits. She said a member of her department was recently paid $1.5 million as the result of a lawsuit.
“You have to be so careful with internal issues,” said Higgins, who also spoke at length about what she has learned about building police station facilities.
Cory Christensen, assistant chief of police for the city of Fort Collins, described transparency as good news and bad news “when I can tell you.”
He said law enforcement says “I can’t tell you” too much, and he saves that phrase for when it is really important.
“Bad news does not get better with age,” said Christensen, who was called a great communicator by panel member Dapper. “If you tear the Band-Aid off, the pain goes away faster.”
Jerry DeLong, a Craig Police Department commander currently working as Steamboat’s interim police chief, said he was expecting the transparency question. DeLong was tasked with whether to release reports prepared by an independent investigator looking into the inner workings of the police department.
DeLong said he did not have a problem with providing information as long as he was legally able to.
“The stuff that I’ve been dealing with the past couple months, I’m protecting the employees,” said DeLong, who along with two other candidates proposed creating a citizens police academy aimed at educating the community about how police departments function.
Kimberly Ferber, investigations/support services division chief at the Littleton Police Department, said that, in order to be more transparent, the department should put more information on its website, including maps that show where crimes have occurred.
“The community has to have confidence and faith in the police department and what we’re doing,” said Ferber, adding it was very important for the chief to set clear expectations in order to change the culture of a department.
Daric Harvey, a commander at the Vail Police Department, said transparency came down to allowing the public to look at what the department was doing.
“If we have something that’s not the best of us, number one, we need to acknowledge that,” Harvey said. “As chief, I need to acknowledge that.”
Harvey said if he were unable to release information, he would explain why.
Harvey also spoke about a youth outreach program he helped implement in Vail.
“You can be a leader no matter what your title is, and that’s really what we taught those kids,” he said.
After the meetings, the community panel was expected to provide feedback to Interim City Manager Gary Suiter, who will make the ultimate hiring decision. Suiter hopes to name the new chief within a week.
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