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Provo • Rick Gregory, state director for Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, said it was an easy choice to apply for the job of the city's police chief.
"My mother's from Provo, my father's buried just 20 minutes away, my grandmother lives 30 minutes away and I have lots of other family there," Gregory said in an interview from Delaware.
And Mayor John R. Curtis said it was an easy decision to offer the job to Gregory.
"[The committee reviewing the candidates] said we had seven great candidates, but picked one unanimously as head and shoulders above the others," Curtis said, referring to Gregory.
Curtis announced at a police department awards ceremony Wednesday that Gregory, a former lieutenant colonel in the Florida Highway Patrol, was his nominee to replace Craig Geslison, who retired in January.
Gregory's appointment is subject to his passing a background check, psychological evaluation and polygraph test, as well as completing the Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training requirements for the job. Finally and Curtis quipped that this might be the highest hurdle Gregory would have to clear he must be approved by the Municipal Council.
Curtis expects Gregory to be on the job in June.
Gregory was one of 60 people who applied for the position. Folsom, Calif.,-based Citygate Associates, the firm that conducted a performance audit of the department, culled the list to seven, who were then interviewed by a committee that included Brigham Young University Police Chief Larry Stott and Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy, which picked three finalists.
The other finalists were Saratoga Springs Police Chief Gary Hicken and Idaho Falls Police Chief Steve Roos.
Curtis said Gregory made a powerful impression on the committee, even though he had to interview via Skype because of a death in the family.
"Chief Stott looked me in the eye and said, 'Get on a plane and offer [Gregory] the job,' " Curtis said.
Gregory said his first order of business will be to get to know the officers in the department, see how they work and work on a strategic plan.
Gregory comes into a department that was rocked last year by criminal charges filed against three officers for unrelated incidents ranging from forcing a woman to expose her breasts to stealing prescription drugs from a home during a burglary investigation.
The incidents prompted Curtis to ask for a performance audit by Citygate. The audit found no "organic" cause for the officers' misconduct, but it recommended creating a standards and training bureau to oversee training and to investigate misconduct complaints.
Gregory said he was aware of the incidents and the audit report when he applied for the job. He sees the audit as a blueprint for moving the department forward.
He is already planning to implement one of its recommendations by reaching out to the community. The audit faulted the department for not being involved with civic groups.