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EDITORIAL: Conger’s exit no loss to Boulder City Police Department

“People get in trouble and resign all the time,” said now-former Boulder City police administrator Bill Conger. And if anybody should know that, it’s him.

Mr. Conger, a former Metro Police deputy chief, was appointed “chief of police administration” in insular Boulder City in 2013. (In order to continue to collect his Metro Police pension and still work in Boulder City, Conger had to be employed by an outside, California-based company with which the city signed a contract. Hence, his stilted title.)

But legalized double-dipping turned out to be the least of Mr. Conger’s sins. What really brought him down was failing to act when a detective in his own department reported that Mary Jo Frazier, the city’s former animal control supervisor, had been needlessly and aggressively killing animals in the city’s shelter.

Instead, Frazier was allowed to resign and quickly left the state. Mr. Conger defended not referring her case for criminal charges by saying it was moot, since she’d resigned her position. Let’s hope that this particular philosophy of law enforcement doesn’t catch on. Losing one’s job is the least that should happen to public officials who abuse the public trust. (The city is belatedly seeking to charge Frazier with 37 counts of animal cruelty.)

Not only that, but members of the police department reportedly told city managers that Mr. Conger wasn’t being truthful about when he first learned of the allegations against Frazier. Mr. Conger maintained he first learned there were problems in April 2015, but animal control employee Ann Inabnitt says she actually alerted Conger in April 2014. (It was Ms. Inabnitt’s report that sparked the police investigation that apparently prompted Frazier to resign.)

Revelations about Frazier’s aggressive euthanasia of animals — which apparently included her ex-husband’s dachshund — outraged tiny Boulder City, leading to protests and, eventually, Mr. Conger’s resignation Jan. 11. (It must also be said that the work of Review-Journal reporters including Bethany Barnes and Ben Botkin was essential to revealing to the public what really happened in this case.)

Mr. Conger’s departure is a good thing. The last thing any community needs is a “chief of police administration” who is incurious about potential crimes, and possibly untruthful about the timelines related thereto.

But there’s a larger issue here as well: Boulder City needs to do a far better job choosing its next chief of police than it did in this case. Instead of contorting itself into knots in order to hire a favored candidate, the city should do a legitimate search for an independent, fearless chief who will fight crime regardless of where she or he finds it, even and perhaps especially if it’s at City Hall.

That concept may run against the history and culture of Boulder City, but it’s clearly necessary to restore the department’s credibility and give the residents assurance that crimes are not going to be ignored any longer. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

 

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