Mayor's choice for Rapid City chief criticized
RAPID CITY (AP) — Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker's choice to lead the city's police department is drawing criticism from some who believe that Elias Diaz does not have enough command experience.
Diaz, 43, has been with the Rapid City force since 1998, serving in various capacities, most recently as a lieutenant. His appointment, announced Monday, still needs to be confirmed by the City Council next week.
Diaz does not supervise any officers in his current role, which involves writing and maintaining policies, doing grant work and overseeing compliance with national accreditation standards. As police chief, he would oversee a staff of 153 full-time employees, including 119 officers.
State Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, who was the city's police chief before the recently retired Steve Allender, told the Rapid City Journal that Diaz doesn't have the front-line experience to lead the department.
"Lt. Diaz is a good guy, somebody who I respect," Tieszen said. "But I don't think he's ready to be police chief."
Former Mayor Alan Hanks, who hired Allender as chief in 2007, said "it's a pretty big leap to make a lieutenant a chief." And Allender said he backed another candidate — Interim Chief Karl Jegeris, who was assistant chief under Allender and who many believed had been groomed for the top spot.
"I'm trying not to say anything that is bad or inflammatory or would take something away from Diaz," said Allender. "But I don't know what to say. If he's confirmed by the council, then I wish him the best."
Diaz said the support he has received "has just been overwhelming," and that "I'm very excited about the prospects of my new role."
When asked whether his appointment would create division within the department, he said, "leadership is a trust and it may or may not happen overnight," according to KOTA-TV.