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Mayor Kooiker Catches Heck for Changing Police Chief Selection Process

The Rapid City Council will approve Mayor Sam Kooiker's new police chief tomorrow night... maybe. Mayor Kooiker announced last week that he wants to promote theologian-turned-cop Elias Diaz from the department accreditation desk to the chief's office. Diaz faces a council vote tomorrow night, and a number of councilors are signaling they don't like the Mayor's choice:

"I have concerns about his lack of command experience," wrote Alderwoman Bonny Petersen in an email. "The Police Department has been ran well and is improving. They are recovering from the loss of our fine policemen, at the same time violent crime is rising."

...Alderwoman Amanda Scott... said she's received more than 20 messages from constituents questioning the selection. Scott and others are upset that the public and council had no opportunity to weigh in on the recommendation prior to the final vote on Monday [Joe O'Sullivan, "Police Chief Vote Likely to Be Close: Some Council Members Unsure of Lt. Diaz," Rapid City Journal, 2014.06.15].

Retired police chief Steve Allender wrote a recommendation for another candidate, his second-in-command and interim Chief Karl Jegeris. Allender's predecessor, now State Senator Craig Tieszen, says Jegeris is more experienced and Diaz isn't ready to run the department.

Returning to the blogosphere from a health hiatus, Rapid City statesman Stanford Adelstein says Mayor Kooiker has deviated from a long-standing process for choosing city officials:

Over 30 years ago Mayor Art LaCroix and Chief Tom Hennies established a method of preparing for future leadership changes in city government.

The process involved careful evaluation of every member of the police force to identify future leaders. From the results, a careful plan of promotion, mentoring, and training prepared some for future professional police leadership positions. Thus the next Chief was chosen with care and without personal prejudice or intervention.

The process has worked incredibly well, giving us effective leaders like Chief Tiezen and Chief Allender.

Sadly, Mayor Kooiker has chosen to violate the process, and it has had the predictable effect of reducing morale, embarrassing his appointee and, for that matter, embarrassing the whole police force [Stanford Adelstein, "The Mayor's Folly," A Way to Go, 2014.06.14].

Adelstein sees railroadery in tomorrow night's City Council agenda, with Mayor Kooiker placing the Chief vote near the top of the meeting, then scheduling a recess to allow what Adelstein calls a "party" for the new chief:

Evidently the plan is to intimidate the council to approve the nominee, lest there be awkward moments with his friends and family waiting in the room for the ice cream, cookies and punch, or whatever they are having.

It’s a tacky trick and I doubt the council will fall for it, no matter how awkward it may be [Adelstein, 2014.06.14].

The council and the public will have a chance to weigh in prior to the vote, as the agenda includes an executive session and the open public comment period. Having worked in the public sector, I can sympathize with Officer Diaz: having one's résumé questioned in the press is no fun. But Mayor Kooiker appears to have brought this trouble upon his friend by circumventing past practice in picking a police chief.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2014.06.15

    Woster in a post somewhere has indicated the religious fundamentalism and religious connections of the guy appointed chief of police. Kooiker is into fundamentalist religion. That may or may not be the reason for the appointment. However, the board has often treated Kooiker like the Republican retrogrades in Congress have treated Obama. At some point after being slapped a dozen times, I assume the "screw them" attitude takes over and end runs around knotheads starts to seem to be the only option.

  2. Tim 2014.06.15

    Mayor Sam has always had an obsession with the "good ole boy" network that was set up in RC years ago, with that being said, some positions need to have structure in the promotion process, police chief is one of them. When he first got elected he was what we needed after some less than above board actions by the council then, but these days his religion is getting in the way of some of his decisions. It is time for a change.

  3. Loren 2014.06.15

    Both Dias and Jegeris are fine officers and serve the community with distinction. Now Sam is creating problems where none existed. Jegeris has every qualification that Dias has and then some. He was put in a position of succession because of experience and qualifications, NOT "good ol' boy" politics. The leapfrog approach from Lt. to Chief IS politics. Now, no matter the outcome of the confirmation vote, there will be controversy. If not confirmed, Dias is embarrassed and has to go back to Lt. What has Sam done to his friend's future in that case? What becomes of Jegeris if Dias is confirmed? You don't scrap a fine public servant like him... or do you?
    I have only lived in Rapid for 8 yrs, but I have observed controversy following Sam everywhere he goes.

  4. Rasputin 2014.06.15

    This is yet another attempt by Kooiker to put his beliefs ahead of the city. I knew it before I even read the first press release that he would not be picking Jegeris.
    He is in bed with hypocrite and liar Dale Bartscher, he is two-faced in all of his dealings. Saying one thing to your face and then doing another behind your back. Ask any city employee off the record and see what they say.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2014.06.15

    Cory, that is the story by Woster I was referring to. Give me a call and I can tell you a bit more about RC Police, but I won't post it here.

  6. John 2014.06.15

    I'm not a Sam fan, yet his recent performance elevated to competency in managing and leading large, complex organizations - he IS the mayor, so give him the benefit of the doubt. Who ever is appointed will prove whether they are worthy within their first 90-180 days.

  7. Tim 2014.06.17

    It looks like the fight between the council and mayor's office is in full force, they voted 8-2 against Sam's choice. Hard to say at this point, how things will be going forward.

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