UPDATE | New Bainbridge police chief, city have verbal agreement for job offer

Matthew Hamner speaks with islanders at a meet and greet with all five chief finalists on Thursday, April 4, before he interviewed for the position.  - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Matthew Hamner speaks with islanders at a meet and greet with all five chief finalists on Thursday, April 4, before he interviewed for the position.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Matthew Hamner was announced as Bainbridge Island's next police chief Friday afternoon.

City Manager Doug Schulze said it was Hamner's overall attitude that made him stand out from the field of five finalists.

"I thought he came in with real positive energy, enthusiasm, a can-do attitude," Schulze said.

"I felt he was going to be a good fit for leading the organization through a process of changes during the next three to five years," he added

Hamner will have his work cut out for him. He is inheriting a police department that's been the subject of much outside criticism — and a large amount of internal discord — in recent years. Jon Fehlman, the city's last chief, resigned in September after the release of an outside investigation that was prompted by a vote of "no confidence" by the city's police union and claims of mismanagement and misdeeds. The investigation found scant evidence of wrongdoing, however. Fehlman's second in command, Sue Shultz, was forced out after two Bainbridge officers complained of gender discrimination. An investigation into those charges also came up largely empty.

Add to that, the department's low standing in the community. Residents have long complained of officers' interactions with island teens, and the department and city lost a federal civil rights lawsuit last year that ended with a $1 million judgement spurred by the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill Bainbridge man.

Schulze plans to implement a few changes to the police department over the coming years, he said Friday. In addition to carrying out the recommendations from the recent assessment by experts from the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, the Bainbridge department will be moving toward state accreditation.

But beyond that, Schulze will rely on Hamner to continue community outreach efforts, likely with roundtables and forums.

Schulze noted that the department's interim public safety director, Larry Dickerson, has helped with much of the outreach and community relations, and Hamner will take the next steps.

Schulze hopes that Dickerson's and Hamner's time will overlap when the new chief starts. Dickerson took over management of the department in July, after former chief Fehlman went on medical leave.

Schulze is expecting that it will take at least 30 days for Hamner to resign from his position with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, where he holds the rank of major and serves as the chief's executive officer.

"He will have move his family across the country," Schulze said. "And he has to go through the process of resigning from his current position."

Schulze has notified Hamner of his choice and has a verbal agreement with the new chief.

"Staff is working on typing up a contract," Schulze said. "I would expect we will have that in place sometime next week."

Hamner will be offered a salary of $142,000 per year, plus the standard benefits package that's offered to city employees.

Once Hamner does arrive on Bainbridge, the city plans to hold an event to welcome him and his family to Bainbridge.

The man from Indianapolis faced stiff competition for Bainbridge's chief position. A total of 57 people applied for the job.

The candidates were whittled down to five finalists, including recent retiree Richard Daniels, formerly of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a current Bainbridge Island resident. Also considered were Harry Glidden from the Aurora Police Department, Lieutenant Richard Goerling from the Hillsboro Police Department and Bryce Johnson from the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Hamner comes to Bainbridge Island with 23 years experience in law enforcement. He has worked for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department since 1990.

While with the department, he was awarded the Indianapolis Police Medal of Honor for "extreme valor in the face of peril" after he disarmed a drug dealer who had pointed a loaded gun at his face and threatened to kill him.

Hamner holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, and he graduated in May with a master's degree of criminal justice and public safety from Indiana University. He is a June 2011 graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Hamner was also a top candidate for a chief position in Flagstaff, Ariz. in 2012.

Beyond police work, he has served on the school board in Franklin Township, Indiana, and he was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for a House of Representatives seat in his home state of Indiana in 2008.

Attempts to reach Hamner for comment were unsuccessful Friday.


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