COLUMBIA — A national search will be conducted for a replacement for Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm, said City Manager Bill Watkins. Don Weaver, the president of the Columbia Police Officers Association, said on Monday the replacement should come from outside the department.
Boehm will retire from the police department July 1 and begin a new job as manager of security for MU Health Care on July 7.
The position won’t be filled quickly. Watkins said he expects the search for a new chief to take six to seven months and to focus on candidates outside the department and across the country. He said he hopes to have a new chief in place by Jan. 1, 2009.
Watkins said an interim police chief would be appointed in a couple of weeks and would get guidance from Boehm, though he would not say who that person would be.
The city will form a search advisory committee to help establish criteria for screening applicants and conducting interviews. The city is also looking at the possibility of hiring a consultant to conduct the national search, Watkins said. Boehm will not have a formal role in choosing his successor, Watkins said.
Watkins said he would also look at candidates from inside the department but made it clear the search would not be limited to department staff.
Weaver expressed his appreciation for everything Boehm has done as police chief. But he said the officers association would like a role in selecting a new chief — from outside the department.
That’s important in light of the internal problems the department has had over the past few years, Weaver said. He referred specifically to a 2006 report by the MU Center for the Study of Organizational Change which, among other things, found that Columbia police officers were unhappy with their jobs because of internal problems and the structure of the department.
“MU researchers made a report identifying serious problems with the culture in the department,” Weaver said. “True change of the culture can’t happen with someone who was brought up in that same problematic culture.”
He said the officers association believes that many of the department’s internal problems are growing pains of the department and the community, which are both growing.
“Chief Boehm served the city of Columbia well and for a long time,” Weaver said, “(He) did what he thought was best for the city and the department.”
When Boehm retires as chief, it will end his eight-year tenure at that position.
“I’ve truly enjoyed the 31-plus years I’ve worked at the Columbia Police Department, I’m blessed to say,” Boehm said.
Boehm said the more he learned about the opportunity with MU’s hospital system, the more excited he became. “The university is a great system to work for,” he said. “It’s in Columbia and is closely related to the job that I love.”
Boehm has denied that his decision to retire from the police department has anything to do with the possible creation of a citizen review board to oversee police conduct and procedures. Boehm has long maintained there is no need for a citizen review board and that all internal problems were resolved by the creation of the Professional Standards Unit and internal affairs overhaul in 2007. In the seven months that the Citizen Oversight Committee has met, Boehm has made only one presentation to the committee and did not attend the five public forums that gauged the public's relationship with the police department.
“I don’t have any significant regrets,” Boehm said. “I’m proud of the organization. I’ve enjoyed every job that I’ve had in the police department.”
Boehm has been eligible for retirement for 11 years.
The hospital began searching for someone to fill the position in March. Former Columbia Police Chief Ernie Barbee retired on April 1 after holding the position for eight years, said Mary Jenkins, spokesperson for University Health Care. A 32-year veteran of the police force, Barbee retired as chief of police in April 1996 after holding the position eight years.
Boehm will be paid $72,000 annually, Jenkins said. His current salary as police chief is $100,000.
According to the official job description, as manager of hospital security, Boehm will “manage the operational, financial and personnel activities” of the MU Health Care system. He will also represent MU Health Care when dealing with federal and local law enforcement, including the MU Police Department.
Watkins said he and Boehm talked a number of weeks ago when Boehm applied for the hospital position. Watkins said he supports Boehm’s decision.
“Randy has given this city and the department 30-plus years,” Watkins said. “If he wants to do something with the last 10 years of his career, I’m very supportive.”
Columbia police Capt. Mike Martin said no one within the department had been contacted about becoming interim police chief but that the department is capable of handling the transition.
“Anybody that is in command level is capable of filling that position,” Martin said. “Whoever it may be will have the assistance and help of the city manager’s office.”
Martin said Boehm is a very caring person who does work with charitable organizations, including the Special Olympics.
“(Boehm) is a happy and fair person,” Martin said. “Those qualities are not always found in every person you come across. He exemplified what it means to be a good police chief.”