Late last week, community members gathered in Leonardville and at the Manhattan Fire Department Headquarters to provide input in the search for a new Director of the Riley County Police Department.
In coordination with McGrath Human Resources Group, the meetings probed public perception of the RCPD and asked what Riley County would like to see in its next director the board will appoint.
KMAN attended the Thursday night meeting at the Manhattan Fire Department. Community members in attendance represented some of the diversity of Riley County residents, with attendees ranging from PhD students in Criminology to business owners, previous RCPD officers and retired schoolteachers.
Ron Moser, Lead Police Consultant for McGrath Human Resources and McGrath Consulting Group — the group contracted to assist the Law Board in carrying out the hiring process — fielded the discussion and posed a series of questions to gather public feedback.
All the questions prompted informative discussion from the group, the chief question of the evening, however, engaged the room for the bulk of the session: Is there a particular skill or experience that you think is necessary that the hiring board should consider?
A group with a variety of backgrounds returned a variety of answers. A recurring response shared across the room felt the new candidate should possess a cultural and ethnic diversity awareness, especially in light of the current climate surrounding policing across the country.
Eva Zurek, a resident of Manhattan, came because of what she called “a vested interest” in affecting the hiring of the new director. She said, as a woman with an accent, she had been “unfairly targeted” in the past and hopes that importance be placed on a new hire that emphasizes “understanding the different culture [sic]” and “treating everyone a fair way.” She expressed her priorities in a new director be someone who ensures the RCPD is an entity that attempts to teach more than to punish.
Community members also spoke up about the way in which the new director would approach handling the unique demographics the RCPD serve — specifically, K-State and Fort Riley populations.
“This current administration has, from the director’s standpoint, made it clear that this town would be a really nice town to live in if it wasn’t for college students and military” Dennis Cook, a member of the Aggieville Business Association Board of Directors, told KMAN after the meeting. He continued, “We need a culture change.”
Other attendees brought up the need for increased communication and transparency from the department moving forward, as well as ensuring the new director has the management background to effectively handle the forthcoming NBAF research facility in a time of crisis.
All of this feedback was noted by the McGrath representatives and by the search committee, which they will then take into consideration when creating the job description for the soon to be open position.
Moser, the facilitating McGrath consultant, told KMAN after the meeting that he was please with the outcome of the discussion. “People were talkative,” he said, and “gave [them]good information” which McGrath and the Law Board search committee will use to “get the picture of the next director.”
This all follows an announcement which current director Brad Schoen made on KMAN in February that he will be retiring at the end of the year. The law board hopes to have a new director hired this fall, with the individual then taking over fully on January first of 2019.
This search also comes at a time the department is the subject of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Topeka by a former officer, alleging he felt forced to resign for not reaching monthly DUI arrest quotas — a policy the RCPD denies.