By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — The Boyceville Village Board has set a March 6 deadline to submit applications for the position of police chief.
The Boyceville Village Board held a special meeting January 21 with Paul Gunness, chief deputy of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, to discuss the process of hiring a police chief and to make decisions about the salary and the job description.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department is prepared to offer assistance in whatever areas the Boyceville Village Board would like assistance, Gunness said.
When the Village of Colfax hired a new police chief in the spring of 2014, Colfax did the majority of the work in advertising for the position, gathering and screening applications and interviewing the candidates. The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department conducted the background check, Gunness said.
“It is important to determine the level of qualification and what you are looking for,” he said.
Colfax hired a police chief with law enforcement experience, but Boyceville village board members could decide they want someone with more supervisory experience, Gunness said.
“It’s what you want (in a police chief),” he said.
In addition to the application itself with a resume and a cover letter, the application process could include written tests and oral interviews with a public safety committee that also has a law enforcement presence, he said.
When an applicant gives an answer to a question, it might seem a like a good answer, but someone in law enforcement would have different perspective on whether it was a good answer in terms of how a candidate for police chief should respond to the question, Gunness said.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department would be more than willing to conduct the background check for a Boyceville police chief candidate, Gunness said.
The background check would be free to Boyceville for candidates in Wisconsin or the Twin Cities area. Background checks in other states, such as California or New Mexico or Colorado, would come with a cost because they would be referred to another agency, he said.
When the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department conducts a background check, representatives for the sheriff’s department travel to the place where the candidate lives and go door to door interviewing people.
“We knock on doors. We stop people on the street,” Gunness said.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department has an “active interest” in who is hired as a police chief because the sheriff’s department must work closely with the police chiefs in the county, Gunness said.
Having someone in a police chief position who has good law enforcement skills and is trustworthy is of the utmost importance, especially with the number of drug investigations going on in Dunn County right now, he said.
Someone who does not keep the investigations confidential is someone who could end up being killed or getting someone else killed, he said.
“We are not here to make a decision. We are here to assist,” Gunness said, noting that representatives for the sheriff’s department would tell the Boyceville Village Board whether they would or would not hire someone but that the Boyceville Village Board would actually hire the police chief.
After the Boyceville Village Board has selected a candidate and the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department has conducted a background check, the candidate must still go through psychological testing, medical testing and drug testing, Gunness said.
Psychological testing is day-long process that will cost the village several thousand dollars, “but there’s too much liability without the psychological testing,” Gunness said.
All together, advertising for the position, screening and interviewing candidates, conducting background checks and completing the other testing is about a three-month process, Gunness said.
“We will assist you in any way possible,” he said.
Village Trustee Bud Gilbertson wondered if Dunn County Sheriff’s Department personnel would help with the oral interviews.
Conducting the oral interviews would be up to the village board, but the sheriff’s department will provide one or two people to also assist with the oral interviews, Gunness said, adding that he would most likely be part of the interview team, along with Captain Kevin Bygd of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department and also a Boyceville resident, as well as a police chief from another agency.
“We are willing to help you, but we do not want to steer the process,” Gunness said.
Village Trustee John Hellmann wondered about conducting the interviews by telephone for those candidates who are out of state.
Gunness said he advises against conducting interviews by telephone.
“You should ask them to come and be here face to face … (and) not only are they coming here, but we are going there,” Gunness said.
Out of state
Village Trustee Jo Palmer wondered if Boyceville would be likely to get out of state candidates applying for the position.
“I would be surprised if you did not get (applications) from out of state,” Gunness said, adding that Boyceville also could get applications from larger agencies, such as Milwaukee.
Working in a small town in northern Wisconsin can be an attractive option for an officer who has been in law enforcement for a while and wants to finish his or her career in a more quiet setting, Gunness said.
On the other hand, some of the small towns in Dunn County, such as Colfax, have been anything but quiet lately, he said.
Police officers in Wisconsin are required to have 60 hours of college credits or an associate’s degree in criminal justice, police academy training, and be certified as a police officer in Wisconsin, Gunness said.
If a police officer is certified in another state, he or she would have one year to obtain Wisconsin certification, which is why it would be important to have Wisconsin certification as a condition of employment along with a one-year probationary period to make sure the police chief gets the Wisconsin certification, he said.
Police officers must also complete 24 hours of ongoing training every year and must complete other training to maintain their certification, Gunness said.
Gunness recommended asking for three to five years of experience and noted that the type of experience can outweigh the number of years of experience.
Gunness also recommended allowing four to six weeks for the applications to be submitted.
The Boyceville Village Board set a salary range for the police chief position of $47,000 to $53,000, agreed that they wanted the job listing to include “supervisory management skills are preferred,” and set a deadline of March 6.