Search for new Olympia police chief is on hold

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One of the four finalists to become the permanent Olympia Police Department chief had previously been reprimanded in Kalamazoo, Michigan for grabbing a man by the throat during an arrest.

The City of Olympia announced today that the hiring process will be put on hold, after a local journalist asked about the candidate’s use-of-force incident.

According to the Michigan-based news source MLive, then police Sgt. Derrick Turner grabbed a man by the throat on July 10, 2017. Turner was, at the time, a 10-year veteran of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, according to the article. The incident was captured on body cam footage. The man Turner grabbed approached him aggressively, the department’s chief told reporters at the time. The chief  added that while Turner was right to address the man’s aggressive actions, the method Turner used — grabbing him by the throat — was not appropriate.

Since 2018, Turner has worked at the Port of Portland Police Department, managing all day-to-day operations, according to a city press release.

Olympia City Manager Jay Burney said in a statement that Turner has been withdrawn as a candidate, and the process of hiring a new chief is put on hold.

“I am incredibly upset by this turn of events,” said Burney in a city press release. “We are taking a pause because our community needs to trust our process, and we owe it to the remaining finalists, who are strong candidates and deserve the opportunity to compete without a shadow cast over the process.

The incident didn’t come up as part of the vetting process for the candidates, states the press release. The city has contracted with Olympia-based Karras Consulting to help with the search, including vetting the background of each candidate.

“There are no excuses from us,” said Dennis Karras, of Karras Consulting, in the press release. “This was clearly an oversight on our part.”

While the process is on hold, Interim Chief Aaron Jelcick will continue heading the department, a position he’s held since December 2019. Jelcick is also one of the final three candidates for the police chef role. The others are Sean Case, currently the captain of administration at the Anchorage Police Department and Amy King, a 21-year veteran of the Olympia Police Department.

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