The candidates fielded questions about leadership style, community and media relations, experience and approach to law enforcement.

Three of the four candidates for the Devils Lake Police Department’s chief position answered questions from the City Commission during a three-hour session Monday.

Retired Highway Patrol sergeant Joseph Knowski, along with Steven Rohrer, sheriff of Benson County, and Barry Vannatta, sheriff of Kidder County, all fielded questions from commissioners. Lyle Sinclair, a sergeant with the Bismarck Police Dept., dropped out of the running for the job, though no specifics were provided.

The candidates fielded questions about leadership style, community and media relations, experience and approach to law enforcement.

While Knowski and Rohrer are somewhat known quantities, as Knowski served with the Highway Patrol here for decades and Rohrer has been Nelson County Sheriff for 10 years, Vannatta, of Kidder County, is a relative unknown.

Vannatta displayed a straightforward approach to the commissioners’ questions. Asked about moving from an office with two deputies to a department several times that size, Vannatta said that he’d run DPLD about the same as he’s run his office during his time as sheriff.

“I wouldn’t manage any differently than I do now,” Vannatta said. “My strongest suit is to make sure my employees know I’m there for them.”

When asked about media relations, Vannatta responded that he was upset about “what they did to us” during last year’s Dakota Access Pipeline protests, though he did envision a less contentious relationship with local media.

Questions about the state of the police department previously during the shakeup of leadership earlier this year when the two top officers were suspended from the force and eventually fired also rose.

All three acknowledged their familiarity with the situation while stressing the importance of community relations, which, in the opinion of Mayor Richard Johnson expressed during an interview with the Journal last week, was lacking during Schroeder’s time as chief. Johnson also indicated that lack of strong leadership was a problem at DLPD, which the candidates also attempted to address by pointing to their respective leadership styles and experience.

The mayor predicted that a final decision would likely come during the commission’s first post-Labor Day meeting on Sept. 5. The commission’s next regular meeting is on Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m.