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Four finalists for police chief position

Hopefuls were interviewed Friday – two local, two from out of state.

Hopefuls for chief of the Bainbridge Island Police Department have been winnowed to four finalists, the mayor’s office announced this week.

Candidates Matt Haney, Helmut Steele, Alexander Perez and Anthony Garrett mingled with City Council members and invited members of the public at an informal get-together Thursday evening at Four Swallows restaurant.

They were given formal interviews Friday by a panel that included the mayor and interim city Administrator Lee Walton; several area police chiefs; Charlie Wiggins, a Bainbridge attorney with judicial experience; and Bainbridge fire chief Jim Walkowski.

Finalists include:

l Matt Haney: Haney has served as interim chief of Bainbridge Police since the retirement of Bill Cooper a year ago. He was hand-picked as Cooper’s successor, and since that time has been strongly endorsed for the job by the department rank and file, who have petitioned the mayor on his behalf.

Haney has been in law enforcement for 25 years, including a lengthy stint with the King County Sheriff’s Department. He has served as course developer and instructor in SWAT tactics, crime scene analysis, and defensive tactics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in workforce education and organizational development.

Haney worked on the Green River Task Force in the 1980s, and after being hired as a Bainbridge Police lieutenant in 2001, rejoined the task force on temporary assignment when advances in forensic science led to the arrest and conviction of serial killer Gary Ridgway.

He and his wife recently purchased a home in Winslow; Thursday, he said he was too focused on the chief’s position to contemplate his options should he be passed over for another applicant.

“If the department and the community were not a good fit, I would not have applied,” Haney said. “The last year has reinforced that belief. I’ve been extremely fortunate, things have gone so well.”

l Helmut Steele: A familiar face to area law enforcement officers, Steele serves as lieutenant/assistant district commander for the Washington State Patrol in Bremerton. He oversees traffic safety issues, ferry security, commercial vehicle law enforcement, fire protection, narcotics task forces and criminal investigations, and is involved in policy development and budget management.

A WSP trooper since 1978 and Kitsap resident since 1983, he has studied police science at the community college level, and has attended the FBI Academy.

Steele took an interest in the Bainbridge job with the retirement of Cooper, a professional colleague and friend. With about 12 years to go before retirement, Steele said, “This is the perfect community that we would enjoy, with the environment and the challenges.”

l Alexander Perez: The former Seattle-area resident has been with the Inglewood Police Department in Inglewood, Calif., since 1987, and has been in law enforcement for 28 years. Most recently, he has served as lieutenant and criminal investigations division commander, overseeing the detective bureau’s juvenile investigations, burglary and fraud, ID theft, auto theft and crime analysis sections.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and is enrolled in a master’s program in organizational leadership.

By coincidence, he and Haney worked together in the Tukwila Police Department in the early 1980s, and transferred to the King County Sheriff’s Office at the same time in 1983.

Perez described the Bainbridge post as “a real plumb job,” citing the community’s “involvement and passion about issues.” He still recalls fondly his days patrolling Vashon Island for King County, and said he looks forward to rejoining a small police department that “can have a big impact in a community.”

l Anthony Garrett: With 32 years of law enforcement experience, Garrett took an early retirement last year from his post as chief of police in Ardmore, Okla., a town of 30,000 residents. Garrett oversaw a department of 58 commissioned officers, 16 civilian personnel and a $3.2 million budget.

He previously served as police chief in the towns of Warr Acres, Okla. (pop. 10,000), Spencer, Okla. (pop. 4,500), and Del City, Okla. (pop. 37,000). He holds a master’s degree in management and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Garrett also served in the U.S. Navy, including a stint in Seattle in the mid-1960s.

Coming back to the Northwest was always a goal, he said, but he did not have the opportunity until his recent retirement; he and his wife heard about the Bainbridge opening from a friend who serves as police chief in Oak Harbor.

“We feel like we need to spread our wings and see different things,” he said.

Garrett also cited his experience in community policing, efforts he said helped reduce the rate of “hardcore crimes” in the Ardmore community.

After Friday’s interviews, Kordonowy said she will consult with others familiar with the candidates to find the best fit for the Bainbridge community, before advancing a recommendation to the City Council for confirmation.

“From this point on, it becomes much more nuanced decision-making,” she said.

Community Events, April 2014

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