TARPON SPRINGS — The city will soon have a new police chief.
Earlier this month, the City Commission directed City Manager Mark LeCouris to fill the position, which has been vacant since LeCouris stepped down in June 2008 to become interim city manager.
In February 2009, LeCouris was named full-time city manager. Capt. Bob Kochen has served as acting police chief since June 2008.
"I believe it is time for this board to ask our city manager to fill that position," Commissioner Jeff Larsen said.
"I believe having clear leadership within the Police Department is the right thing to do in terms of public safety and the fair thing to do for the men and women serving in our Police Department."
LeCouris, who has the authority to hire and fire the police chief, said he will have a formal process in place this week. The commission authorized an in-house hire.
"I want to make sure I'm getting all the rules and know exactly what my requirements are," LeCouris said. "I want to make sure it's the simplest process possible and that we pick the best person for chief. It's not that easy of a decision."
Kochen and Capt. Jeff Young will be considered.
Kochen, 44, has been with the department for 21 years. Before that, he was a Clearwater police officer. Kochen has been an administrative captain since February 1999.
Young, 43, was raised in Tarpon Springs and is a Tarpon Springs High graduate. He has been with the department for 17 years. Young was promoted to operations captain in March 2006.
Tarpon's Police Department administrative structure has a chief, two captains and a lieutenant. Kochen and Young are the captains and Barb Templeton is the lieutenant. The department has 49 sworn officers.
The police chief position has remained vacant to streamline the city's budget. LeCouris said he will freeze a captain's position or promote a lieutenant and freeze that position, depending on what the new chief wants.
"Whoever makes the chief, it is not going to be a substantial raise," LeCouris said. "We just want to make sure their heart and soul is Tarpon Springs. As long as I see that in the selection, that's what makes the difference."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174