Larson to lead police for now
Sgt. Colleen Larson will be the Baldwin City Police Department's chief until a search for a replacement for Steve Butell, who resigned July 19, is found.
"Colleen will be acting as chief until such time as we have a replacement," said City Administrator Larry Paine. "She probably won't be taking on as many responsibilities as a full-time chief."
Larson, who has been with the department for 12 years, said she's prepared to serve as chief, no matter how long that lasts.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," said Larson. "I'm just going day by day to keep the department going to show that I can do it. I'm doing the best I can.
"I know it's temporary," she said. "I don't know what the future will bring."
Paine also said the department will turn its focus completely on law enforcement.
"I am expecting that the police department's role in the community will begin to focus more on its law enforcement duties, more so than in the past," he said. "We will be having more concern on law enforcement than politics."
Paine again declined to give a reason for Butell's resignation and said that's the way the former chief wanted it. Paine also didn't know if the reason would ever be released.
"I have no idea," he said.
Butell's resignation ended a 13-month stretch where outside law enforcement agencies investigated the policies and procedures of the Baldwin department, four officers including Butell were suspended and four officers served complaints on the city that could result in law suits. Butell did not serve notice of complaint.
Some members of the council thought because of the turmoil that someone from outside should have been named interim chief.
"I am disappointed we are not bringing in an interim leader from a neighboring police agency," said Councilman Todd Cohen. "I think that would have been a wise step to rebuild this department's stature."
Paine said the search for a replacement started following last Wednesday's emergency executive session by the city council. There it was determined to have Larson as chief while the search process was underway.
"The search has started," he said. "I put together a recruiting plan for a new chief and that's what I presented to the council at last week's meeting."
Paine said the plan had several steps and procedures to follow, as well as a time frame. That includes announcing the job opening, a description of the duties and the pay levels. Also to be included in the recruiting package is information about Baldwin.
"I'm in the middle of that now. Hopefully I'll get that done this week and we will be able to provide recruiting packets for those interested," he said. "Advertising will also start then. Following that, we will have a committee that will primarily be our safety committee that will view the resumes when they come in. They will select a group of candidates.
"Then there will be an interview committee to narrow the field even further," said Paine. "From there, I can make a selection to recommend someone to the council. It will take awhile."
He wasn't sure how much time the whole process will take. Mayor Ken Hayes said he expects it to take months.
"I'd estimate two to four months," said Hayes. "We've got a brochure to get out and advertise the position. Then we'll evaluate the candidates and pare it down."
Cohen hopes that the recruiting effort will pay off.
"We need to focus on making the police chief position attractive to a high quality candidate," said Cohen. "He or she needs to be a strong leader, be a good communicator and be a mentor to young, fresh-from-academy officers."
Paine said the position is open to anyone on the current police force, including Larson.
"It's open to all members of the force," he said. "I think everyone needs a fair shot at it. If we have an individual on the force that can do the job, we certainly have to look at that, as well as candidates from the outside."
After the various committee members make their choices, Paine makes his recommendation and the council acts, there will still be more time before a new chief is in place.
"After the appointment is made, it will be a matter of when they can start. They would have to give notice," he said. "That's assuming it's an outside person."
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