Lakewood veteran cop to be interim GJPD chief

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Lakewood Police Department Division Chief John Camper was named Grand Junction’s interim police chief Tuesday, as city officials tapped a veteran law-enforcement officer with ties to the Grand Valley.

Camper, 50, will officially move into the position Aug. 31, replacing Police Chief Bill Gardner, who abruptly announced two weeks ago he will resign Sept. 4. Camper is expected to serve as interim chief for four to six months, at which point the city is expected to hire a permanent police chief.

The move brings in an official from a department renowned for producing police chiefs after which Grand Junction has modeled itself.

Camper “will bring great value and great experience to our department during this time of transition,” City Manager Laurie Kadrich said during a news conference and conference call with Camper at the Grand Junction Police Department.

Gardner, who played an integral role in finding someone to replace him on an interim basis, said he looked to Lakewood because the two cities have worked together in the past and Grand Junction police model the way they provide services after Lakewood police.

Calling Camper a “distinguished colleague and friend of mine,” Gardner said he and Camper have taught police management classes together, and Camper has served on boards making recommendations on promotions within the Grand Junction Police Department.

He also noted the Lakewood Police Department has produced 63 police chiefs since the city incorporated in 1969.

“They have very high standards,” Gardner said.

Gardner emphasized that the decision to look outside the Police Department for an interim chief was not a reflection of the current staff and said he believes there are several officers who are qualified to serve as chief.

Camper, who was the only interim candidate interviewed, said he intends to “continue down the great path already set by Chief Gardner.” He said he doesn’t anticipate applying for the permanent job.

A 1977 graduate of Central High School, Camper has spent 28 years with the Lakewood Police Department and served as a public information officer, crime-prevention agent, detective, sergeant and commander. He was appointed division chief in 2004 and oversees the patrol division.

Camper said he credits Grand Junction police for sparking his interest in law enforcement.

He recalled that Central once hosted a career day during which students shadowed a professional.

He rode along with an officer, not necessarily because he wanted to follow in his career footsteps, but because he didn’t want to spend all day in an office somewhere.

As it turns out, he said, the officer he shadowed made an impression on him by treating the people he encountered with respect.

“I really couldn’t imagine doing any other job,” Camper said.

Lakewood will continue to pay Camper’s salary during his interim tenure, while Grand Junction will reimburse him for housing and business vehicle expenses.

Kadrich, Gardner and city Human Resources Manager Claudia Hazelhurst are expected to meet today to begin establishing criteria for a permanent police chief. City officials hope to fill that position by early next year.


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