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Newport council names Muiznieks' interim replacement

Newport City Council on Thursday appointed Newport Police Sgt. Curt Montgomery as interim chief of police effective Dec. 1, when longtime chief Veid Muiznieks will retire after 34 years with the city's police department.

Montgomery, who joined the Newport Police Department in 1995, will oversee a smaller force: City Administrator Brian Anderson said the city, at least temporarily, would not add an officer to replace the promoted sergeant. The move will shrink Newport's police force to seven officers.

Mayor Tim Geraghty said the city would operate with a smaller police department "for a trial period." The proposed 2010 general fund budget includes funding for an eighth officer, but "we just want to be cautious before we make a decision" about hiring a new chief or patrol officer, Geraghty said.

Anderson said the purpose of Montgomery's appointment is to provide the department with a seamless transition after the departure Muiznieks, who announced his retirement in June, on Nov. 30.

No firm timeline has been set for review of the smaller police force, Anderson said.

After "anywhere from two to six months" the city could reevaluate the situation, the administrator said in an interview. Then, he said, the city could choose to conduct a full search for a new police chief, or it could continue on as a leaner department.

Montgomery said he's looking forward to the job, and he believes the department can manage with one fewer officer.

"Downsizing is never pleasant, but we're professionals. We'll deal with it," Montgomery said in an interview. "Budget cuts -- everybody's dealing with them."

A smaller force will mean likely internal changes, he said, like Montgomery himself performing shifts patrolling the city's streets -- a duty not typically executed by a Newport police chief.

Muiznieks said a Newport chief has not performed regular street patrol shifts since 1989.

"There'll be smaller changes the citizens probably won't notice," Montgomery said.

Or at least that's what Newport officials hope.

Council member Pauline Schottmuller said city hall should closely track the number of calls made for mutual aid, put out when Newport police or fire cannot adequately cover a public safety emergency.

"The answer to having a seven-man force isn't calling St. Paul Park all the time," Schottmuller said.