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Mayor, police get their man

City Council confirms Matt Haney as chief.

What the resume didn’t accomplish, the interview did.

By a 6-1 vote, the Bainbridge Island City Council Wednesday confirmed the nomination of Matt Haney as chief of police. Council members, who had been split on the nomination, cited Haney’s impressive handling of a three-hour, closed-door grilling – including his admission that he has made mistakes and has more to learn – for winning their favor.

“I found that very human, and I appreciate human-ness,” chair Christine Rolfes said.

Lone dissenter was Bill Knobloch, who missed the council’s interview of Haney but questioned the nominee’s “seasoning.”

The vote, which followed a 90-minute executive session, was greeted by applause from the several dozen citizens and police officers in the gallery.

“We’re extremely pleased,” said Detective Scott Anderson, president of the Bainbridge Island Police Officers Guild, which had lobbied on Haney’s behalf. “We’re of a consensus that Matt’s the finest police chief who’s ever served this island. I think he’ll prove that in the coming years.”

Haney came to Bainbridge Police in 2001 as a lieutenant, although he was loaned to King County shortly thereafter to complete the investigation that led to the arrest of serial killer Gary Ridgway. Not long after returning to the Bainbridge force, he was named interim chief with the departure of Bill Cooper.

His confirmation as chief followed a somewhat rocky six weeks at City Hall.

Haney was favored by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, after he emerged as one of two finalists in a screening process that included interviews by area police chiefs and a Bainbridge lawyer with judicial experience.

Kordonowy nominated him for the post on March 24, but the council declined to confirm the appointment after what was described by sources as a tense and emotional executive session.

Several council members complained that they had been excluded from the hiring process, and needed more information on Haney’s service record. Others wanted to look into unspecified concerns by citizens, which clearly came into play during the grilling.

The council’s interview questions, which were made available Thursday, show that Haney was specifically asked to explain the department’s “use of force” policy; the purchase by the department of various new weapons; a reported decrease in traffic stops and increase in accidents; his handling of complaints against the department; and an incident in which officers were said to have responded belatedly to a call for service.

Haney was also quizzed on his ability to discipline officers, and to work with any officers who might not have supported his candidacy.

Councilman Jim Llewellyn praised Haney for negotiating the interview with “knowledge, candor, grace and humor.”

“I’m very pleased,” Haney said, “and I have to admit, it feels like the real work starts (now).

“Not being ‘interim’ anymore takes away all the excuses. The buck stops here.”

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