Islanders share their wish list for finding a new police chief

Tom Muehlenbeck listens to islander Cindy Anderson at a community forum for the city
Tom Muehlenbeck listens to islander Cindy Anderson at a community forum for the city's police chief search.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Bainbridge Island has a wealth of voices, and they weren’t silent Tuesday night when discussing the search for the city’s next police chief.

What qualities does Bainbridge want in its next police chief?

The answers ranged from highly educated to someone invested in the community itself.

Roughly 20 islanders attended the hour-long meeting, hosted by Tom Muehlenbeck of Strategic Government Resources, the Texas-based search firm charged with finding the next chief.

Communication is a priority for islanders. And some in the crowd suggested that the candidate have a master’s degree in business administration. Others wanted to make sure the education was coupled with a background in criminal justice.

“I would like them to be a pretty well-educated and a well-rounded person,” said Gloria Sayler. “I think they need a deep understanding of how to deal with the community.”

But education wasn’t all the island wants.

“We can have MBAs, and we can have plenty of education, but what we need is someone with good common sense,” said Cathy Dunn.

“I’d hate to see this as a stepping stone,” Dunn added. “I’d like to see someone with a desire to stay here.”

Muehlenbeck asked the crowd if it was important that the chief live on the island. Heads nodded.

“We don’t want someone who is coming here for a job,” said Scott Anderson, a former island police officer. “We want someone who is coming here to be part of the community.”

But aside from the qualities that islanders want to see, the crowd also said candidates must be warned about the department and community the new chief will inherit.

“You must be very upfront with the candidates that apply,” Dunn said. “We have a unique community with a lot of strong opinions. Walking into this is not an easy job.”

“Whoever you hire needs to come in here with their eyes wide open,” she added. “They need to know the tenor of the community. Thick-skinned, too.”

Bainbridge Island has been without a police chief for nearly nine months after Jon Fehlman went on administrative leave before resigning in September.

Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson stepped in to keep the department running for most of that time, but the city has expressed a desire to fill the position in the coming months.

Finding Fehlman’s replacement has been among City Manager Doug Schulze’s top priorities after coming onto the job in November.

Strategic Government Resources’ next step will be to take the information gained from the community and city officials to design a brochure advertising the open position.

Muehlenbeck will then present Schulze with a list of applicants.

The candidates will be whittled down to 16 for a round of video interviews.

After Schulze reviews the videos, a final five will be selected to come to the island and interview in person for the job.

The city manager will eventually pick the person to lead the department.

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