Two with ties to Columbia Police Department named candidates for Cedar Rapids police chief

Thursday, August 2, 2012 | 9:07 p.m. CDT; updated 10:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 2, 2012

COLUMBIA — Two long-time Columbia Police Department officers are candidates to become the next chief of the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

They are Zim Schwartze, former director of the Office of Emergency Management and Public Safety Joint Communications, and Capt. Brad Nelson, commander of the department's patrol bureau.

According a news release from the Cedar Rapids Civil Service Commission, video-conference interviews started Thursday to determine which candidates will continue in the hiring process. Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz will select finalists from the list of eight candidates to come meet with Cedar Rapids citizens before a decision is made. 

Nelson has been with the department for 20 years. Schwartze served for 21 years before becoming the director of Office of Emergency Management and Public Safety Joint Communications in 2009. 

Schwartze had the opportunity to become a Chief of Police once before. In 2008 she was the only officer already within the department eligible to take the role of chief following the retirement of Randy Boehm, according to previous Missourian reports. Ultimately current Chief Ken Burton was selected. At the time, City Manager Bill Watkins cited Burton's previous experience as police chief as the deciding factor.

Schwartze was Columbia's first female police captain. She continued to work for the force until 2009 when she become the director of Public Safety Joint Communications at the Office of Emergency Management.

In May, Schartze's position was eliminated and she was relieved of her duties. Budgetary concerns were cited as the cause. City Manager Mike Matthes confirmed at the time that Schwartze did not go willingly, though she had initially intended to retire in February, according to previous Missourian reports.

At the time, Mayor Bob McDavid said the city's general fund — which finances the Office of Emergency Management — was doing "reasonably well," according to previous Missourian reports. However, the mayor accepted the city manager's decision to eliminate Schwartze's job. 

Brad Nelson is currently the patrol bureau commander of the police department. According to the Columbia Police Department website, Nelson commands the largest and most visible department for the Columbia Police, and it includes the Downtown Unit, the K-9 Unit, and the Community Service Aides.

Nelson has attended two nationally-renowned command schools: the FBI's National Academy and the Center for Public Safety's School of Police Staff and Command at Northwestern University. He also holds a master's degree from MU in public administration. 

According to previous Missourian reports, Nelson wrote the initial proposals for the Motorcycle Unit, the Bait Car Program and the Street Crimes Unit. 

Six other police workers from across the nation are also in the running, including Cedar Rapids' current acting chief of police, Capt. Steve O'Konek.

Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in Iowa, with a population of 127,905, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Supervising editor is Ted Hart.

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