COLUMBIA — The consulting firm and the committee that chose the finalists for Columbia police chief eliminated candidates with long ties to the department because of what many saw as the need for considerable change.
Paul Wenbert, a regional manager for Slavin Management Consultants, which advised the Police Chief Advisory Committee on the selection, said the committee generally wanted a new direction for the department. And that means finding someone from outside the department. He said that an internal candidate could bring about change, but the concern was that someone from within the department might be too close to a situation to see what needs to be done.
Rex Campbell, chairman of the Citizen Oversight Committee, said that though his committee did not have any input in the decision of the finalists, the panel hopes the new chief will create better relationships and communication with the community, specifically the minority community.
Diversity issues in the city have been a concern in the past. A report to the committee in 2008 found that complaints from black residents were almost 11 times less likely to be resolved than complaints from whites, according to Missourian reports.
The committee soon began to call for the establishment of a citizen review board to oversee police conduct and procedures and assist in diversity issues. Former Chief Randy Boehm, who retired from the department in July after 31 years, has said that his decision to retire had nothing to do with the possible creation of such a board, which he had argued against.
Diversity issues have "always been a consistent struggle, but it’s gotten better over the years,” said Aaron Thompson, a consultant and diversity training leader for the Police Department. Thompson had suggested an overhaul to the internal affairs system, which resulted in the Professional Standards Unit that has been in effect for nearly a year.
That shift in policing attitude was one that was needed, Thompson said. “It had a significant positive effect in police culture,” he said.
Thompson said it shouldn't matter whether the new chief comes from inside the department or outside of it. He said the fact that someone comes from outside doesn't necessarily mean the culture of the department will change. To promote change, a clear set of goals needs to be set for the new chief and as many residents as possible need to be involved in the process, Thompson said.
City Manager Bill Watkins said the Police Chief Advisory Committee discussed each of the seven final candidates, comparing him or her to the qualifications listed on the recruitment profile. The committee then narrowed the list down to the five finalists announced Wednesday. The finalists will be in Columbia on Monday for interviews and meetings.
“Other than a few delays due to the holidays, the process is working exactly as originally outlined,” Watkins said.
But applicants who did not make the final cut said the process had some flaws.
Applicant Samuel E. Hargadine, currently the police chief in Iowa City, Iowa, said: “My biggest disappointment was the way this thing was conducted.”
Hargadine said the committee did not use the position's recruitment profile in judging his candidacy, nor did it consider his accreditations and experience working in a college town, he said. He said he was also disappointed that there were no law enforcement officers or chiefs on the committee.
Hargadine, a Columbia native, previously worked for the Columbia Police Department for 20 years.
“I was told by (the consulting firm) that they were looking for someone with no history with the CPD and those that were ‘in the job market,’” Hargadine said. “I guess they wanted someone who didn’t have a job already.”
Another candidate who did not make the final cut is Columbia Police Capt. Zim Schwartze.
“I’m very disappointed,” Schwartze said. “I would’ve loved to at least get the chance to interview and share my thoughts and fresh ideas for changes.”
Schwartze said she looks forward to meeting the finalists on Monday and appreciates the support from the community in her decision to apply for the position.
The public is invited to an informal roundtable discussion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.