Three weeks after the resignation of Bismarck Police Chief Robert Sanzotera during the May 10 meeting of the city’s board of aldermen, Mayor Seth Radford contends that communication has markedly improved between the police department and city government.
Citing a number of grievances with the mayor and board of aldermen, Sanzotera announced his resignation at the conclusion of the police department’s monthly activity report, reading aloud from a three-page letter he’d written detailing reasons for his decision to quit.
In the letter, he accused the board of reneging on a promise that he would receive a pay raise after his successful completion of a six-month probationary period, failed to provide safe vehicles and offered such little pay that the department was having difficulty in retaining and acquiring new officers.
Immediately following the city meeting, Radford and the city aldermen met in closed session with members of the police force who had attended the meeting and showed support for Sanzotera who had served with the department around five years before being promoted to chief after the resignation of former police chief Kyle Colyott.
In an open meeting held the following Monday, several officers informed the board about two used highway patrol cars available for purchase. Radford and the aldermen agreed to buying the Dodge Charger and Ford Explorer, with the caveat that the city would have to be approved for a loan by Unico Bank, the local financial institution that handles all of Bismarck’s accounts.
Subsequent to the meeting, the board applied for and received the required loan and both vehicles were purchased. According to Acting Police Chief Sgt. Rob Mahurin, the vehicles are in the process of having additional equipment added and striping applied. They are expected to be in use by the department within the next couple of weeks.
“It’s actually not been a very hard transition at all,” Mayor Radford said. “Acting Chief Mahurin and all of his fellow officers brought to the attention of the board what they needed to appropriately protect the people of Bismarck. The board has responded well with them since we’ve been given all the good information.
“They presented a very good case. I will say the police department is very well prepared and they brought a very good case and accurate case to the board. The board listened, and since we had the accurate information, the board bought them two newer vehicles from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“We’re also working on some things for the future to increase protection for the citizens and to get more equipment for the police department. We’ve been working closely with them and they have been giving us really good input. That’s what we were lacking — the input from the police side of things. We weren’t getting a good picture of the situation.”
Radford stressed that the city and police department are keeping any problems they’ve had in the past and looking forward to the future.
“We’ve got a new day,” he said. “We’re moving forward. Everything is great. Since we’ve been getting better information we’ve begun to work on some salary schedules. The board has been working very well with the information the police have brought us on appropriate salaries for our police department. Both sides are working great together.”
According to Radford, the search for a new police chief to lead the department made up solely of part-time officers is well underway.
“The deadline for applications actually ended at 4 o’clock May 25,” he said. “We’ve had more than six applicants that are very interested. We’ve got a very good selection to choose from. We’re going to be discussing it further with the police department.
“Acting Chief Mahurin has been very, very beneficial in helping us along the way. I believe he’s going to lead the interviews with the board there. We’re going to be able to sit down and visit with several potential candidates. We’re getting flooded with people wanting to actually work over here now and we’re excited about it.
“We are all saying that this is going to be a new day — a new era — and we’re excited about the protection of Bismarck. We’re excited about finding a police chief that’s going to be very proactive in the community — one that will work with all the agencies, the school, everybody for the best of our community.”
As far as the police department goes, Acting Chief Mahurin pretty much agreed with Radford’s sentiments.
“I think we have a better relationship with the board,” he said. “I think we’re communicating better. I think it had gotten to the point with Chief Sanzotera that we were at a standstill and now we are stepping up to the next level. We’re running this department with nothing but eight part-timers. There’s no chief and there’s no full-timers assigned to this department.
“The board stressed that they wanted to hear from all of us at the last meeting and I thought that was one of the best things that I’ve seen here as a city employee. They brought the whole department in and said, ‘What do you think?’ I’ve been here almost 18 years, and this is the best I’ve seen the department.”
“I will say the police department is very well prepared and they brought a very good case and accurate case to the board.” — Mayor Seth Radford
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org