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Cedar Rapids police chief hunt down to 3

Rick Smith and Jeff Raasch, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –

CEDAR RAPIDS – Police Department Capt. Steve O’Konek and police commanders from Maryland and North Carolina will vie to become the city’s next police chief, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz announced late Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to O’Konek, the finalists are Wayne Jerman, assistant police chief at the Montgomery County Police Department, Rockville, Md., and Michael Smathers, a captain with the Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Police Department, Charlotte, N.C.

The three were among seven candidates for the post that were in Cedar Rapids for two days last week for a round of interviews with Police Department commanders, city department directors, area public safety professionals and community leaders. The candidates also met the public at an open house.

Thirty-five people applied for the job.

Pomeranz, who hires the police chief with the advice and consent of the City Council, plans to make a final pick by mid-September.

Between now and then, the city will conduct more research into the candidates’ backgrounds and experience and visit the communities where the each of the candidates work.

Cedar Rapids’ former police chief, Greg Graham, came to the city in June 2008 from the police department in Ocala, Fla. In January, Graham was hired as police chief at his former department.

WAYNE JERMAN

Wayne Jerman, 55, is the assistant chief of police for the Montgomery County Police Department in Rockville, Md. He has spent his entire law enforcement career there, starting as a patrol officer in 1979 and advancing to assistant chief in 2007.

According to his biography, Jerman spent time in divisions for training and education, police records and animal services. In 1994, he assisted in launching a Police Community Action Team, a unit that utilized community policing concepts while focusing on “at risk” neighborhoods.

Jerman holds a master’s of business administration degree from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., and a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from the University of Maryland. He is graduate of the 236th Session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.

The Montgomery County Police Department has 1,200 sworn officers.

MICHAEL SMATHERS

Michael Smathers, 48, is a Captain at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte, N.C. He has been with the department his entire law enforcement career, starting in in 1994.

Smathers holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He is a member of professional organizations including the Police Executive Research forum, International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Tactical Officers Association.

Smathers was promoted to Captain in 2006 and currently heads the department’s armed robbery/sexual assault division.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has 1,774 sworn officers.

STEVE O’KONEK

Steve O’Konek, 50, is a Captain in the criminal investigative division at the Cedar Rapids Police Department, and the lone internal candidate remaining in the field. He has spent the past 27 years with the department.

O’Konek began his career in law enforcement in 1981 as a community service officer with the Coon Rapids Police Department in Minnesota. He was hired in Cedar Rapids in 1985 and advanced to Captain in 2005.

O’Konek was a finalist for the police chief position in 2008. He was one of three current captains who spent time as interim chief during the search. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Upper Iowa University in Fayette and an associate of applied science degree in law enforcement from North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department has 203 sworn officers.

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