Cops

An arm rests on the open window of a police cruiser at the intersection of North Seventh Avenue and Durston Road on Aug. 4, 2020.

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Bozeman has narrowed a field of dozens of candidates to six in the search to find the next chief for the Bozeman Police Department.

Assistant city manager Chuck Winn said over 70 people applied to the position, which opened after former Chief Steve Crawford left the department last year. The six remaining candidates — who Winn declined to name Tuesday — will interview with three panels next week, after which they will be whittled down to two to three finalists. Winn also declined to say whether Interim Chief Jim Veltkamp is an applicant for the position.

The finalists will be brought to Bozeman for in-person interviews, Winn said.

“This isn’t a position you want to hire just by virtual means,” Winn said. “We really want to bring them in, we want to give the community an opportunity to meet each of these candidates and (give) the staff the same opportunity.”

City Manager Jeff Mihelich has the final say on the hire, Winn said.

During the interviews next week, candidates will meet with Mihelich and Winn, a panel of the city’s department heads, and a group of residents.

Residents helped shape the job posting during a meeting in November, where they were asked to talk about what qualities they want to see in a police chief. Residents said they want someone who is equipped to manage a growing city, who can work with community partners and who understands the history of biased policing.

“We recognize that this position is different from other director level positions in the city,” Winn said. “The police chief is a unique opportunity in a city and we recognize that the public has a lot of interest in who ultimately gets this job.”

The search comes as Bozeman is undergoing a review of its policies as a part of an inclusivity initiative that started after protests over racism last summer. The department updated its use-of-force and bias-free policing policies last year.

During a city commission meeting earlier this month, Mihelich said police officers have been trained in implicit bias, decision-making and de-escalation intervention and force mitigation in recent months.

The city is also accelerating the purchase of body cameras and is reviewing the citizen complaint and appeal process. Mihelich noted the future chief could want their own input on the initiative.

“Perhaps this work should be completed and wrapped up when we have a new chief of police, because they may have some unique and innovative ideas in this space,” Mihelich said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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