Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After seven months of having an interim police chief, Havre now has a chief appointed permanently, its fifth in eight years. Havre Mayor Bob Rice appointed Jerry Nystrom to the position. Nystrom has been serving as interim police chief since last May. Rice said Thursday that he was satisfied by the work Nystrom had done in the position. “He had proved to me that he was the man for the job,” he said. Nystrom said transition of the position to a permanent basis hasn’t changed anything for him. “I started the job as an interim, but I tackled it just as if I were the chief,” he said Thursday. Nystrom said he has implemented many changes in the department since he was appointed last May, and more are in the works. One of those is creating a system with two assistants with different sets of duties. Gabe Matosich is the assistant chief in charge of operations, while Stan Martin is the assistant who handles internal affairs and relations with other agencies, Nystrom said. He said the reorganization has improved the department’s operations. Rice and the rest of the four-person committee who interviewed the applicants hired Nystrom over the applications of Martin and Senior Staff Sgt. Bill Wilkinson. Martin, last fall, filed discrimination complaints against Rice and the City of Havre about the selection process. Kimberly Howell of the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Human Rights Bureau said this morning that the investigation found no cause for the complaint, ruling against Martin’s allegations. She said he has until Feb. 2 to appeal the ruling if he wishes. Martin said this morning he does plan to appeal the ruling to the state District Court. When interviewed last May, Rice said that all three candidates were highly qualified, but that especially after the interviews, the committee agreed that Nystrom was the best candidate. Rice said Thursday that he has been satisfied with the operations of the department and with changes in its operations. One of those is efforts to upgrade the reserves for the police department, an issue on which he is continuing to work with Nystrom, Rice said. He said he also is pleased with Nystrom’s work to try to make the police officers more visible and accessible to the community. “They have been told to mingle with the public and hear complaints and kind of be more involved with community events,” Rice said. Nystrom said increasing the officers’ visibility and involvement has been one of his main goals. “I want the police force to be more out in the public, more involved with the public and more approachable to the public,” he said. “I don’t want the only time they see a police officer (to be) when he is responding to a call.” He said the department’s policies and procedures are also under constant review and improvement. “We’re basically making sure all of our policies and procedures stay current,” he said, adding that is being accomplished by following guidelines from insurance and risk management institutions, concerning issues like liability and safety, and by reviewing procedures already in place in other areas and with other agencies. “You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, you want to find the best practices and implement what works,” he said. The department also needs to be ready to try new ideas just because a policy has a long history doesn’t mean it’s the best, he added. “(If something has) worked good for the last 20 years, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work well today or tomorrow,” Nystrom said. Nystrom, born and raised locally, first became involved in local law enforcement more than two decades ago. In 1988 he became a reserve deputy for the Hill County Sheriff’s office, and a year later he started his two years as a full-time deputy. He left law enforcement briefly to work in the private sector, at a local farm-implement dealership. He returned to law enforcement when he started with the Havre Police Department in 1993, and then also started working with the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force, later renamed the Tri-Agency Drug Task Force. When he accepted the position as interim police chief, Nystrom was the team leader and supervisor of the task force’s investigation activities. Rice said when he appointed Nystrom in May that he also was hoping to create some stability in the position, find someone who would stay long-term. Nystrom is the fifth police chief for Havre this decade. After 32 years on the force and 13 as chief, Mike Shortell retired in August 2000. He was replaced by Kevin Olson, his assistant chief, who left in February 2004 to head the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena. Assistant Chief Mike Barthel was next appointed chief, serving until May 31, 2007, when he retired from the police department and took a job as a state probation and parole officer in Havre. His assistant chief, George Tate, then took the position until he left last spring for employment with the state’s Department of Justice Gambling Control Division. Rice briefly appointed himself acting interim chief until he appointed Nystrom interim chief in May. Nystrom said he has no plans to leave the position soon. “I don’t expect to make any (job) changes for at least the next five years,” he said. He added that his work is complemented by the quality officers and staff at the department. “If it looks like I’m doing a good job it’s because of the people I have working for me,” Nystrom said.