City manager offers plan to choose new police chief

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | 8:03 p.m. CDT; updated 2:57 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — City Manager Bill Watkins has proposed a plan to choose Columbia’s new police chief using a “head-hunter” firm and a selection advisory committee.

Watkins said in a memo to the City Council that he expects it will take about seven months to fill the police chief position. An interim police chief could be appointed as early as mid-June and would work with outgoing Chief Randy Boehm, who will begin as manager of security for MU Health Care on July 7.

Watkins said several organizations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Executive Research Forum, would help recruit applicants across the country.

“While the best new chief may already be in the department, we should do a national search involving a firm to act as our agent in selling Columbia to prospective applicants,” Watkins said.

In addition to a recruiting firm, an advisory committee of 12 to 15 people would also assist in the selection process. The committee would have input on choosing which firm would search for candidates, shaping the desirable criteria, deciding which candidates to interview and assisting with the interviews.

Public input is also a component of Watkins’ proposal. He said that both the desirable traits of potential candidates and the discussions concerning the selection of a search firm need to be “very public.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said he is pleased with the city manager’s proposition.

“It looks like a plan that we need to get the top quality people, and yet there is still a sense of the community input,” Wade said.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz agreed.

“(The proposal) seemed like it was pretty sensible,” Sturtz said.

Although Watkins is interested in community feedback concerning what traits people would find appealing in their police chief, Wade has faith that the parties involved will make a good decision.

“I am basically going to leave it up to the city manager and the advisory committee,” Wade said. “This is an important position, and the challenges are huge. You have to trust the search process and see what happens with it.”

Sturtz said he would like to see a police chief who has a partnership with residents.

“I’d like to see a police chief who is interested in resuscitating the idea of community policing,” Sturtz said. “I want a person who collaborates with the community to make Columbia safer.”

Watkins said he doubted that a new police chief could be recruited with the sum of $103,572, Boehm’s current yearly salary. He said the salary would be most likely listed as “open.”

Wade said the selection of the advisory committee is already under way.

“I would say that the committee could be chosen as quickly as the end of next week,” Wade said.

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Tom O'Sullivan May 22, 2008 | 8:20 a.m.

Seven months to pick a police chief? That's ridiculous. It doesn't take the President of the United States that long to pick a Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cities much larger than Columbia don't take that amount of time to select new police chiefs. I hope we don't have the type of shenanigans that went on back in 2000 after Norm Botsford resigned.

Tom O'Sullivan
1407 Rosemary Lane

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