- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - Four years ago, Joe Huff was a Nampa police whistleblower who sued the city over retaliation. Now he’s set to become chief.

Nampa Mayor Bob Henry picked Huff for the job because he wanted someone who would bring change, who stands up for principles and is committed to the department, the Idaho Statesman reported (http://is.gd/tjCHNs ). Henry named Huff interim chief on Thursday, over two other internal candidates, to replace outgoing chief Craig Kingsbury, who left to take the top job in Twin Falls. Huff’s appointment is expected to become permanent on the first Monday in January.

Huff, Sgt. Curtis Shankel and investigator Leonard Claunts sued the city in federal court in 2011. They alleged that then-chief Bill Augsburger retaliated against them after they exposed policy violations that ranged from one officer’s excessive use of force to top administrators golfing during work hours. The city settled the case for $189,000.

Huff, 43, says that since then he’s given “150 percent” to the department.

“We were able as a department to put that behind us and move on,” he said. “I really feel I’ve grown since that incident.”

Born in Nampa to a reserve officer father, Huff became interested in the department when he was about 8, he said. By 18, he was old enough to become a reserve officer himself, and he joined the Nampa police as a sworn officer at 21.

He said he plans to work with department leaders to identify needs and look at where resources could be redistributed to meet those needs. The department has 170 employees, including 116 sworn officers and five new officers who aren’t yet sworn.

Huff aims to make Nampa policing more proactive, he said, trying to address the behaviors that lead to crime as well as reacting to crime when it happens. Among the areas of focus, he said, will be repeat offenders and gang crime. He’s already working to bring gang specialists into the department’s patrol teams. A former narcotics officer with the NPD’s Special Investigations Unit, Huff said that unit made great strides in reducing gang crime a decade or so ago.

The mayor said he would also like to see more vigilant traffic enforcement and more personal connections between officers and community members.

Current Deputy Chief Brad Daniels and Lt. Joe Ramirez also applied for the top job. Henry said he didn’t want to “automatically go with the next man up,” but he did want to hire from within the department.

A three-member selection committee - Henry, Councilman Bruce Skaug and Human Resources Director Tina Combs - studied the applicants and comments from police employees.

Henry also conducted an anonymous survey of the department; 38 percent of the survey respondents wanted Huff, and “of the people who talked to me, that support was way higher,” Henry said.

“Overwhelmingly, they want change,” he said.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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