A familiar face will lead the Newberg-Dundee Police Department going forward.
Jeff Kosmicki, a 24-year veteran of the department, was chosen last week as the city's new police chief by City Manager Dan Weinheimer. Kosmicki was one of four finalists for the position, which was vacated last year upon the retirement of longtime chief Brian Casey.
Thirteen candidates applied for the position and were vetted by executive search agency Novak Consulting Group. Weinheimer reviewed seven of the candidates before winnowing the field to the four finalists. The other finalists included Corey Chase, a captain in the Portland of Portland Police Department; Mica Lunt, former police chief in Forney, Texas; and Joel Wendland, a captain in the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
"Jeff's experience with the department and community are important to me," Weinheimer said in a press release. "He's demonstrated his concern and support for staff, so has created a strong team dynamic."
Kosmicki first began his career at the NDPD as a patrol officer, then ascended to positions as detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain before being tapped as interim chief in April 2020 when Casey retired.
A longtime Newberg resident and graduate of George Fox University with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Kosmicki is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a certified police officer with an executive level certification from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.
During his tenure as interim chief, Kosmicki helped initiate a new peer support program designed to tend to police staff's mental health. He also adjusted engagement programs such as Shop With a Cop to the constraints of the pandemic.
"Jeff demonstrated both through the interview process and the last 14 months that he is the right person to serve as chief," Weinheimer said in the release. "His humility, knowledge of the community's needs and strong support among the NDPD staff stand out."
Kosmicki said leading the department as interim chief allowed him insight he wouldn't otherwise have access to.
"Serving as interim chief the past 14 months has given me the opportunity to more closely understand the position within the organization and the community at large," he said, adding that he has received "an outpouring of support" from residents, city leaders, business owners, partner agencies and from within the department itself.
"I want to build on past successes by continuing to open doors with community members," he said. "There is always room to listen, to grow and improve. I look forward to this next chapter and am excited for the possibilities as we work together to build a safer community for everyone."
Kosmicki, who assumed the position chief immediately after Weinheimer's announcement on July 7, expects to hit the ground running.
"My No. 1 priority is staffing …," he said. "The hiring pool for people who want to become police officers has been significantly reduced in the last year. We need to replace retirees with an emphasis on diversifying our workforce."
In addition, Kosmicki is determined to make the department more visibly accountable.
"One of the biggest reforms for policing is transparency and how to achieve it," he said. "(Weinheimer) and I have made a commitment to purchase body-worn cameras for officers. Everything points to better interactions when people know they are being recorded. We will also be forming a citizens advisory committee to share many of the checks and balances we already have, but that aren't public-facing today. Sharing information will give us a community perspective, which will be invaluable as we move forward."
Kosmicki takes over as chief during a time when calls for police reform have become de rigueur across the nation.
"Since I've been a police officer, policing has always been evolving and changing," he said. "Last year I listened intently to the communities of Newberg, Dundee and our legislators. I changed some policies that I believed would be in the best interest of both the department and our residents."
He added that ensuring the department conforms to societal norms, while maintaining public safety, will be an ongoing challenge.
"It's also important to look at the whole picture when talking about reform," Kosmicki said. "NDPD has been an accredited police agency through the Oregon Accredited Alliance since 2004. We contract with Lexipol for our police policy manual. This is a huge benefit to NDPD because they watch for legislative law changes and create policies to follow those changes. We've also been in the top five safest cities in Oregon for a number of years. That doesn't mean we put our feet up and rest on those accomplishments — we have and will continue to strive for excellence in policing knowing we are not perfect."
Weinheimer echoed the new chief's sentiments and praised his work so far.
"He has been willing to adapt and lead transformation within the department," he said. "I believe that we have a strong staff and department and that we need to work on opening up our practices to community advice/input and build relationships within the community."
In the end, Kosmicki said, his goal is to maintain the quality of life in a town that's been home for more than two decades.
"I've been very fortunate during my career, I've had some opportunities but never really wanted to work anywhere else," he said. "This is not just a job for me. I'm invested in the community, my kids have grown up here and I have a lot of family and friends here."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.