The process of finding the successor to retiring Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner moved to the forefront Friday and Saturday, as the seven final candidates met with residents, area law enforcement officials and others, at a community reception and a day-long interview process with City Council members.
Meisner is retiring later this month, after 39 years in law enforcement, all with the department.
The finalists, selected from a group of 78 applicants, include the current administrative sergeant in the department, a former Garfield County undersheriff who is now a law enforcement advisor for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, three division commanders from other Colorado police departments, another from Arizona and a patrol commander from the state of Washington.
Timothy Templar said his philosophy is to "give the community the department they want."
"I don't think you can be a Front Range guy, or a big city guy," he said. "It's different. I think every officer has to spend time on the street, to get to know the community and for the people to know the officers."
Templar said as an administrator, he would work to reduce the paperwork load on officers, so they can spend more time on the street.
Vaughn Miles said listening and talking are at the heart of helping a police department and a community work together.
"When there are arguments, it's important to sit down and work things out," he said. "If you have that communication, you can do that and not get bogged down."
Many times, Miles said, it's more important to help people understand what the law says and why instead of making an arrest. Miles said his style is to pay attention to details, do the research and get all the input before making a decision.
Kenneth Koch said there are several steps to gaining the cooperation of a community: Ethics as officers, recognizing and encouraging cultural diversity, recruiting and retaining quality employees, among others.
"Public trust will determine if you have a partnership or an adversarial relationship," Koch said. "That doesn't mean you pander to any certain sector of the community. If you don't have the community as partners, then it's just the police versus the bad guys and they'll always win nine times out of 10. So it's crucial to make that partnership work."
Charles Baker said having a police department involved in the community helps people get to know the officers, and the officers and department to know the community's values.
"As a chief, being a part of things like the Rotary Club lets people get to know you and interact," he said. "The police department here is very healthy, and my goal is to continue to have a well-respected department with citizens and other law enforcement agencies up and down I-70."
Keith Caddy said a good department has good relationships not only with citizens, but other city departments and the news media.
"Then you can assess things and if any changes are needed, people are more likely to follow you," he said. "Getting to a comfortable relationship helps both sides understand the dynamics that go into it."
John Garavaglia said partnerships and relationships lead to understanding what a community expects from its police department.
"You've had a very stable base here under Chief Meisner, so that's a real challenge to fill that role," he said. "Once you establish a good relationship both inside the department, with other city departments, Garfield County and the community, then you have everyone involved and supportive."
That support eventually translates into the community helping police identify crime suspects and reduce crime, he added.
John Dyer said the community and police department have a lot of common issues to deal with, such as youths involved in crimes.
"There's more than one way to address something like that," Dyer said. "I believe prevention is key, so I started a Big Brothers program. With domestic violence, working with agencies that help in that area is important, because it's not just law enforcement that's needed."
City Manager John Hier said the candidates met with police and other city department staffs, along with the hour-and-a-half long public perception. On Saturday, City Council interviewed each candidate.
Hier said the city does not have a specific deadline to name a new chief. Meisner has said he will be available to help his successor get acclimated.