What’s going on with the Cheyenne Police Department is fascinating to watch.
It’s incredible, actually.
The incoming mayor has told Chief of Police Brian Kozak that he is going in another direction and will no longer need the chief’s services.
Instead of going quietly in the night, the chief — who has full support of the outgoing mayor — is using the time between the transition to build a case to stay.
Kozak is a popular figure in Cheyenne. Not only is he the longest serving police chief in the history of Cheyenne (10-plus years) but he has good statistics on his side.
Cheyenne is enjoying the lowest amount of property crime in the history of the city. This has happened while there has been cutbacks in the police department and the city has grown. It’s not an anomaly either. There has been a steady decrease.
After declining for two weeks to comment on his decision to let Kozak go, the incoming mayor Patrick Collins told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that bad crime statistics were the main reason for his decision.
Kozak disputed every charge and explained why Collins’ conclusions are incorrect or the stats are not valid.
“The big question is why would he not go to the agency who can explain crime patterns within the city? I’m just really surprised that he wouldn’t come to me or anyone in the agency to explain the crime rates and why we might have differences in our city and in reporting,” the chief told the newspaper.
Putting that back-and-forth aside, Kozak is touting his successes not only in a letter that he wrote to the Cheyenne City Council which, of course, has been made public. But also in a video he shot and posted on the police department’s popular Facebook page.
It’s not just a popular Facebook page in Cheyenne. This Facebook page has received national attention — numerous times — because of the humorous nature of the posts.
Kozak has a big, big megaphone.
And he’s using that megaphone to tout his successes and to instill a bit of fear in the community that if the future mayor moves too fast, there could be a significant departure in personnel.
“We have 15 employees eligible for retirement and another 7 will be eligible this year,” Kozak wrote to the city council. “They are panicked and looking for other jobs. Others are looking to lateral to other agencies. Morale is the low, employees and the community are demanding a ‘time out’ to make sure the leadership transition is done fairly and professionally.”
Kozak is suggesting a 16-month transition period where he would work with his department on helping to find a qualified replacement.
To make this even more interesting, he says that after those 16 months, he will run for Laramie County Sheriff.
Because the incoming mayor has no power for almost a full month, Kozak is taking full advantage of his “diplomatic immunity” (kind of like Lethal Weapon 2) and is doing whatever he wants.
He announced on Tuesday that he is releasing a four-part video series on the Facebook page on the “overwhelming community support” his department enjoys in Cheyenne.
In the first installment, he said that the department conducted an internal poll and 100% of the respondents said the department is going in the right direction.
“One-hundred percent of our employees said the police department is going in the right direction and doing the right things,” he said in the video.
Then he started talking about the community engagement programs that he launched as chief of police.
“We have the ‘Police and Community together [program]’, we have the Citizens Advisory Committee, we have the ‘Neighborhood Night Out,’ he said.
Quoting Sir Robert Peel, who is known as the father of modern policing, Kozak mentioned Peel said that use of force had to be approved by the community.
“That is why we put community members on our use-of-force board,” Kozak said.
“Number one tip in leadership for a police department is service before self.The community comes first. We are doing this job to serve the community. Always engage the community and ask questions before you make changes to the police department before the changes occur to get the public’s buy-in,” he said.
Based on the vitriol that Collins has toward Kozak — as evidenced in Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle — the future mayor is not going to change his mind.
What Kozak is doing, however, is building a case with the public for an upcoming run for sheriff. And he’s doing so on that popular Facebook page.
It’s a fascinating strategy for Kozak. There is little downside to what he’s doing because he’s so popular in the community.
For those unfamiliar with him, you might think — by these actions — that he’s a huge egomaniac. Actually, he’s just the opposite.
He’s a humble, soft-spoken person who is well-liked.
What he is doing is unconventional to put it mildly and should be very entertaining for the next month — not to mention his forthcoming run for sheriff.