Vancouver down to 3 in search for chief

Two finalists withdrew after visiting the city

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

The field of candidates to be the next chief of the Vancouver Police Department has been narrowed to three after two people took themselves out of the running.

Ronald Ruecker and Paul Walters withdrew their names a week after visiting the city Aug. 6 and 7 for panel interviews with community members and police officers and a public reception, according to an Aug. 22 email from City Manager Eric Holmes to Mayor Tim Leavitt, the city council and police department employees.

Ruecker, who formerly served as superintendent of the Department of Oregon State Police, currently works as an assistant director of the office of law enforcement coordination for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C.

Walters served as city manager/police commissioner for Santa Ana, Calif., for two years until February, and previously worked as chief of the Santa Ana Police Department from 1988 to 2011.

Holmes' email was provided to The Columbian last week in response to a standing public disclosure request.

The remaining finalists are Acting Chief Chris Sutter, Gresham (Ore.) Police Chief Craig Junginger, and James McElvain, a captain with the Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department,

Sutter has been with the city since 1992 and was named assistant chief in 2008. He has been acting chief since Cliff Cook resigned last year.

Junginger has been chief of Gresham's police department since 2008 and has also worked for departments in Huntington Beach and Bell, Calif.

McElvain's coverage area of three cities has a total population of 213,000, larger than Vancouver's. Riverside County ranks among the 50 largest agencies nationwide, with approximately 2,400 sworn officers.

Holmes wrote in the email that he'll order background investigations on the three finalists.

"Assuming a favorable outcome from the backgrounds, I will proceed with the remaining aspects of evaluating candidates, including my own site visits, polygraph and psychological evaluation," Holmes wrote. "Results from each of these steps will be factored in a hiring decision."

Holmes didn't give an estimate as to when he might make an offer.

"I am well aware of the anticipation within the department and the city of appointment of the next chief," he wrote. "I am committed to making a sound and timely appointment that will assure the greatest opportunity for success in the next chapter of VPD. I appreciate your support of a deliberative process," Holmes wrote.

A nationwide search by Bob Murray & Associates yielded approximately 60 applicants for the job.

The salary was posted as under review, but the current annual salary range tops out at $143,000, Holmes said.

Cook, who was hired from Fort Worth, Texas, had to make unpopular cuts as part of citywide reductions, and long-running tension between officers and command staff was not defused during his tenure. Cook was described as an isolating figure who didn't take the time to get to know his staff, even failing to know some of their names. He was more popular outside the department, particularly among civilian volunteers for the Neighbors on Watch program. He was the subject of a no-confidence vote by the police guild in 2010. He now heads the Bellingham Police Department.


Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.