Topeka councilman apologizes for social media post regarding city’s next police chief

In this April 2015 file photo, Jeff Coen speaks at a Topeka City Council meeting. (2015 file photo/The Capital-Journal)

Topeka city councilman Jeff Coen apologized on Friday for making a social media post on Thursday implying he knew who the city’s next police chief would be.


“I didn’t mean to do that,” Coen said when reached by phone early Friday morning. “I’m sorry.”

Coen confirmed that he shared a local media’s story on Thursday about the 10 a.m. Friday announcement of who will be named as Topeka’s police chief.

Coen’s original message read, “We hired a Police Chief from within our ranks! Maybe the trend will change.” He has since changed the post to read, “Hire a Police Chief from within our ranks? Maybe the trend of always hiring ‘outsiders’ will change.”

“I fixed it,” he said of the original post. “I mistyped on that.”

Coen said he stands by the comment about not wanting a police chief hired from outside of the department and said hiring interim police chief Bill Cochran for the permanent position is his preference.

“It will help with the morale of the officers,” he said.

Cochran was hired Friday by the city as the new police chief.

Coen said city council members were informed on Thursday of who will lead the police department. The official announcement was made by Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla and city manager Brent Trout at the city’s Holliday building.

Cochran was named TPD’s interim chief in November. He has been with TPD since 1987, working as a homicide detective and a bureau commander. He also served 20 years as an officer in the Kansas Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq from January 2004 to February 2005.

The other two finalists for police chief include D. Samuel Dotson and Dominic Rizzi Jr.

Dotson was the police chief for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from December 2012 to April 2017. He has been with the St. Louis Police Department since 1993 and worked in various roles including chief of staff for the Board of Police Commissioners, commander of the Seventh Police District and detective in the intelligence unit. He was also the director of operations in the St. Louis mayor’s office from May 2011 to December 2012, Hadfield said.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dotson retired from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in April when the new mayor took office. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson described the relationship between police and the community as “frayed.” The Ethical Society of Police, which represents black officers, criticized Dotson in November 2015, raising issue with community relations following Ferguson as well as the number of minorities who were promoted. Dotson said the complaints were unfounded, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Rizzi has been the police chief in Yakima, Wash., since 2012. Before that, he served in the Chicago Police Department for 26 years in positions including patrol officer, homicide detective, commanding officer of the Law Enforcement Operations unit and executive assistant to the first deputy superintendent. He was also a military police officer in the Army, according to Topeka city spokesperson Molly Hadfield said.

The city of Yakima experienced three police shootings in December, resulting in two deaths and one injury, according to The Yakima Herald-Republic.

In 2014, Rizzi and the Yakima department were sued by the police union, which unsuccessfully tried to prevent the release of officer discipline records, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.

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