Cmdr. Fred Bertsche has officially been named interim police chief, succeeding Robert McGowan, a 30-year veteran of the force who announced his retirement nine months ago.

Bertsche's appointment this week came as no surprise. City officials said last month that they would appoint an interim chief and Bertsche was always the prime candidate. McGowan's last day on the job is Friday and city officials said a permanent replacement will not be named until later this summer.

Bertsche, who has been on the force 29 years, has said he has no permanent interest in the chief's job because he plans to retire next year. "I'm the least problem to put in, in terms of politics," he said.

City officials said there has been delay in filling the position because a nationwide search for a successor to McGowan is continuing, as is an independent study of qualifications for the job, commissioned three months ago by the city.

Police Department sources say the leading internal candidate for the position is Cmdr. James Robenson, the city's highest-ranking black officer. Robenson will not comment on his interest in the job.

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