Casper Police

Casper Police Department patrol vehicles sit in a city lot in April on West A Street in downtown Casper.  

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

The city of Casper will begin soliciting applications for a new police chief beginning Friday, City Manager Carter Napier said.

The city manager said he expects to announce the details of the open position before the holiday weekend begins. The application window will be open for about three weeks, he said.

The position has been staffed by Steve Schulz in an interim capacity since May. The previous chief, Jim Wetzel, was dismissed May 5, following a month of turmoil at the department centered on complaints of morale problems. However, the city has not offered an official explanation for Wetzel’s departure.

Napier said he has spoken with City Council members, representatives from activist groups and “run-of-the-mill” citizens regarding the hiring process for the chief. Napier characterized the input as coming from “a broad ... cross-section of the community,” including people of color.

As a result of those conversations, Napier said he has decided to look for a candidate who is able to partner with citizens, local agencies and nearby police departments, in addition to directing officers inside the Casper Police Department.

“This is gonna be a community hire,” Napier said.

The process will consist of soliciting applications, seeking input from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, conducting interviews and finally making a job offer. Napier will make the final hiring decision.

Napier said he expects to finalize a hire sometime in October. If the new chief comes from outside the department, he or she will still be able to take the reins in time for the December holidays, which would meet the timeline Napier set when he took over this summer.

The hiring comes as an outside firm conducts an external review of the department. The first phase of the review consisted of data analysis focusing on officers’ workload, deployment and response times, according to the city. The second stage of the review was completed last week, when 13 private citizens gave feedback to analysts from the Center for Public Safety Management and analysts visited the department.

Napier was unsure whether the review would be available before he made a hiring decision.

If the city hires a new chief before the report is available, the report will be available to the new chief to help him or her create a “new chapter for the department,” Napier said.

The city’s search for a chief began shortly after the local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police released a survey in early April that described a “toxic” environment in the department. Weeks later, two-thirds of the police force gave a vote of no confidence to Wetzel.

Wetzel said he still had no plans to step down in late April, but was ousted from his at-will contract in early May.

Napier was hired after the previous city manager, V.H. McDonald, announced his sudden retirement in April.

“What our public wants is an effective guardian of our peace,” Napier said. “...criminals are not gonna feel safe here.”

The city is also looking for a new fire chief to replace Kenneth King, who will be retiring in January. Napier said he is talking with different people about what qualities they want in a new fire chief.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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