Concern about the department’s future arose following the abrupt retirements of both Chief Mark Kaufman and Capt. Jeff Matter in September. The exits of its two top cops left few viable candidates on the force to fill their roles.
But on Monday, the search for a new leader ended when the city named lifetime Bellevue resident Marc Linder the new police chief.
“I’m happy to get this going and to move forward to try to make this department the best it can be,” Linder said.
Linder has worked 11 years with the department. He was born and raised in Bellevue and worked as a carpenter before deciding law enforcement was his right career path.
He worked part-time with Perkins and Bellevue police before becoming a full-time patrolman with Bellevue. He was a detective with the department until it lost its detective bureau due to budget cuts. He was eventually promoted to sergeant.
Linder became a possible candidate for police chief when Kaufman and Matter retired at the same time in September.
Tom Saleski, who has the longest amount of time with the department, was named interim police chief while the selection process was completed.
Mayor Kevin Strecker appointed Linder as police chief after he passed the required test and completed the interview process. Saleski was promoted to captain and Joshua Pickens was made a sergeant.
“I am confident that Marc will continue to move our department forward,” Strecker said. “Tom Saleski did a fantastic job restructuring our department and I couldn’t be prouder of our sergeants, officers and communications officers. The dedication they show is second to none.”
The new police chief hopes to address the staffing issues plaguing the department in recent years. Linder believes part of the problem is people aren’t as interested in joining law enforcement as they once were with fewer people showing up each year for the exams.
At its peak, the department had 17 employees. But in November, the department’s staff fell to about nine, Linder said. The department now has 15 employees, which includes three dispatchers. A sergeant’s position, however, remains unfilled.
“We’ve had some setbacks with a bunch of people leaving, but we’ve been able to hire some great new officers,” Linder said. “We want to continue to build the police force back up.”
A priority he shares with Strecker is to get the detective bureau operational later this year, which should be possible after voters approved a levy in May 2018. Strecker also hopes to add another K-9 by 2020.
“It’s such a relief to have our department back up to staffing. There were months that I was worried for our officers with the amount of overtime and stress they were under,” Strecker said. “I thank our officers’ families for the increased time they spent away from them. They have such an important job within our community and it takes a special kind of person to do what they do.”
To increase interest in law enforcement careers, Linder wants Bellevue police to be a positive example in the city and proactive in meeting the community’s needs.
“We want to be proactive in addressing the major issues facing our community like the drug epidemic,” Linder said.