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Police forces have taken a hit to their reputations over the past year with high-profile cases of brutality sparking nationwide protests and a “defund” the police movement. Bozeman city commissioners should be cognizant of that as they continue their search for a new police chief and make the process as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Many locals embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement last year and staged several demonstrations supporting it. Activists successfully pushed for reallocating some of the police department’s budget for anti-discrimination training and toward local nonprofit organizations.

Police Chief Steve Crawford resigned last summer, and the commission has yet to hire a replacement. The search has been narrowed to six candidates, according to City Manager Jeff Mihelich, and the commission plans to winnow the list to two to four candidates to bring to town for interviews. Those interviews should be open to the public and there should be opportunities for city residents to weigh in on the process.

The city is in the midst of an analysis to identify racial, ethnic and gender inequities in city government with the goal of increasing inclusivity. They have engaged the services of an outside consulting firm and hope to have the analysis completed by the end of May.

Key to achieving success in this area will be the police chief. That person will set the tone within the police department and how officers interact with the public. Those interactions are perhaps the most critical between city government and its citizens. Public participation and input are often included the process of filling high-profile positions in the community. This should be one of those cases.

The commissioners stirred some resentment last year when they chose a replacement commissioner. Some were vocally critical of the fact a person of color who had applied for the position was passed over. Some of that criticism had merit. This time around the commission should work to dispel perceptions of bias by making the hiring process more transparent.

The commissioners’ goal of increasing inclusivity in city government is laudable and they are commended for committing to the process. Let’s put some of that commitment into hiring a new police chief.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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