Three finalists for Queen Creek’s first police chief were interviewed at a recent virtual forum.
They are Craig Black, chief of the North Salt Lake Police Department; Randy Brice, assistant chief of police for the Gilbert Police Department; and Matt Giordano, executive director of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
Queen Creek Town Council in March voted to form the town’s own municipal police department, setting up an 18-month transition from contracting with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Funds have been set aside in the town’s budget to pay for a municipal police department.
The police chief’s starting salary is to be market competitive, depending on experience and qualifications of the candidate selected, and will be in the range of $170,000 to $190,000 annually. The full salary range for this position is up to $196,273 annually, according to the town’s website.
Initial responsibilities of the police chief, according to the Town of Queen Creek, include:
The June 19 forum, held in the Queen Creek Community Chambers, 20727 E. Civic Parkway, was streamed on the town’s website and also on Facebook.
Area residents could pose questions via a form on the town’s website, in a text message or via Facebook Live. The questions were asked by Cary Pfeffer, a town consultant who moderated the forum.
“As part of the selection process, important the community have an opportunity to hear and see the finalists for the first ever Town of Queen Creek Police Department police chief,” Mr. Pfeffer said.
Questions ranged from the biggest challenge in starting the police department, to the use of a school resource officer at a high school and if they would start a citizen-policing reserve program.
Hiring the right people will be the biggest challenge in starting a police department, Mr. Black said.
“That’s going to be to hire the right people to recruit, to identify and to hire the right people, to ensure that our vetting processes are complete that are in place and they have been done. And that will be the biggest challenge, simply put,” Mr. Black said.
The hiring process and meeting with people in the community are important, Mr. Brice said.
“What we do in the beginning will reverberate for decades, so it is terribly important that we do the right thing at the beginning,” he said. “(T)he hiring is important, but it’s also about partnering with the community.”
Mr. Brice recalled how the candidates were asked to create a 100-day plan, with his including that he would need to get out into the community.
“For me, the first thought I had was, ‘I need to get out in the community to let them know who I am, to show them what Queen Creek stands for as far as a police department and how we incorporate into the rest of the culture’ and start that partnership right up front,” he said.
Hiring the best and the brightest is the biggest challenge, Mr. Giordano said.
“It’s not getting people --- I often say that I can fill 44 officers, nine sergeants and two lieutenants in probably three days --- but they wouldn’t be the right people,” he said.
“We can hire the best and brightest who can come help us start this mission and create the vision and the police department that the residents of Queen Creek deserve,” Mr. Giordano said.
All three police-chief finalists said they had worked as --- and with --- school resource officers and could see the value of having them.
“Schools are part of the community. When I think of why people move to a place that they move to, it’s usually one or two things --- it’s whatever church or faith they are part of or a combination of that and the school,” Mr. Brice said.
“Would I have SROs? Absolutely. I’ve supervised them, I’ve been one, I’ve run divisions with SROs,” he said. “It has a tremendous impact because you have those moments where you could spend time with the kids where it’s not an enforcement situation. So you can create relationships that are much different than stopping somebody on the road. So you are able to break those barriers down and actually talk and they can see we’re human and we can listen to their needs and concerns,” he said.
The new department needs a relationship with school districts, Mr. Giordano said.
“I firmly believe a relationship is necessary between schools and the police department. Having those non-enforcement contacts on those school campuses with school resource officers is invaluable,” he said.
“That is how you make that young child unafraid of a police officer. But more importantly, we need to make sure that officer is there for the right reasons, we need to make sure that officer is part of that overall administration of the school,” Mr. Giordano said.
The police department should support local schools at the level they desire, Mr. Black said.
“My intent will also be to support the schools, to understand what level of support they want to receive from the police department. There may be different levels of support that they want,” he said.
“I am 100% committed to an environment where police are not just providing safety and security, but they are a welcoming force to those children,” Mr. Black said.
“I am fully supportive of a police-reserve program, a community service police officer or a community service officer program. They’re beneficial, they are a great way to not only reach out to the community, but to --- when needed --- have the additional assistance by highly trained individuals that we want,” Mr. Black said.
“I think it’s important to recognize, however, that even on a volunteer basis, these programs --- such as reserve programs or community service officers --- do some with a cost, and they come with the cost of maintaining the integrity of the police department’s reputation. No one knows when they show up at your door in a crisis whether that person is a reserve or a full-time officer, so there would have to be the same level of accountability, training and oversight for their actions also,” he said.
Reserve officers are an additional resource for a police department, Mr. Brice said.
“I think this is the epitome of partnership. This is exactly the kinds of things we’re looking for, not only, selfishly, to be able to leverage an additional resource. In the Town of Queen Creek, there’s a tremendous volunteerism methodology here or way of thinking,” he said.
“I do think it’s important that whatever volunteer program we have --- and I do agree, I would absolutely use a reserve program --- but I would also expand it out to volunteers in all aspects of the department, but it has to include backgrounds, the proper training, oversight just as mentioned before,” Mr. Brice said.
Queen Creek is home to many people who have retired from --- or who work in --- law-enforcement, Mr. Giordano said.
“Yes, I would be incredibly supportive of a reserve program --- ultimately becomes a force-multiplier,” he said. “We will never have infinite resources so if we can leverage the experience and the talent that lives in Queen Creek, why would we not?” he asked.
“I would have a reserve program, I would have volunteers, a neighborhood patrol. And even on a more small level is a block-watch --- a properly trained block-watch --- so you know your neighbors, you know what’s normal and what’s not normal and to call. Those are really unofficial volunteers of the Town of Queen Creek’s police department and we’re going to tap into those resources as well,” Mr. Giordano said.