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Nogales police chief stepping down to take state job

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Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:13 am | Updated: 8:31 am, Fri May 25, 2012.

Reports circulating since last week that Chief Jeffrey Kirkham is leaving the Nogales Police Department after 29 months on the job have been confirmed. City administrators say the chief submitted his written resignation, and a representative from the Arizona Peace Officers Standards Training Board (AZ-POST) in Phoenix said Kirkham has accepted a job there.

City Manager Shane Dille was expected to be back in his office today following a trip to Oregon due to family issues. Contacted by cell phone there on Friday, he said he asked Deputy City Manager John E. Kissinger to read him a letter of resignation Kirkham had left in his office.

“Principally he cited family reasons,” Dille said, adding that his resignation is effective June 30, contingent on acceptance by the Nogales City Council. “Some conversations I have had previously with him would point to this being something that is best for him personally. I have to support that and respect that.”

Several attempts to get comment from Kirkham were unsuccessful by press time. But Dille said he could only speculate about what might have brought him to his decision. “He came to Nogales and his family did not. I can only imagine the kind of stress that would put me under if I were in his shoes.”

Bob Irish, program administrator for the compliance section at AZ-POST, confirmed on Monday that Kirkham is due to start working there in July. He will be one of six compliance specialists, whose annual salaries start at “about $70,000,” which could mean a pay cut for Kirkham, who currently earns $86,451.

Dille said the City Charter clearly states he is responsible for hiring Kirkham’s replacement. “I’m sure a lot of people will want to weigh in. But the goal is to get someone in place that meets the minimum qualifications,” he said.

According to the police chief’s job description updated about a year ago, Kirkham’s replacement must have graduated from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s in criminal justice, public administration or a related field; ten years of progressively responsible management experience in law enforcement. A master’s degree is preferred.

Kirkham has a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s in organizational management and completed a certified public manager program at Arizona State University. He worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and later joined the Mesa Police Department in the mid-1980s, where he attained the rank of lieutenant and among several other duties, served as acting commander.

Departure

Besides a possible pay cut, the AZ-POST position is somewhat of a departure from the field and administrative positions he’s held.

Irish explained AZ-POST oversees about 15,000 officers at 171 agencies state wide. Compliance specialists are responsible for “auditing” new recruits to ensure all background checks have been conducted and that all required paperwork has been filled out. They also make sure officers are receiving minimum state-required training.

When officers are terminated by an agency, compliance specialists review the circumstances and refer the matter to a board that may take no action, suspend certification or ultimately revoke the certificate if an officer’s actions are sufficiently egregious or a felony is committed.

Regarding Kirkham’s replacement, Dille said, “There are some shoes to fill. Jeff is the consummate professional, always looking out for the best interest of the department. Nobody will do the job the same, and I respect that. We need to find someone to continue running the department professionally and ethically.

“Jeff has expertise in organizational management. I leaned on that,” Dille said. “Frequently I talk to him about that in terms of organizational structure. He implemented the police beat system rather than an ad hoc system of patrolling that resulted in efficiencies and less fuel consumption.

Officers were assigned to a beat where they learn to pick up when things are not right in a neighborhood, pick out people who may not belong there, get to know the neighbors and enhance customer service.”